Kolkata: Chris Gayle struck a brutal unbeaten 102 to power Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to a crushing nine-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their Indian Premier League (IPL) match at the Eden Gardens here on Friday.
Galye’s knock came off just 55 balls.
Chasing a challenging target of 172, Gayle took the likes of L Balaji and Shakib-al-Hasan to the cleaners, hitting seven sixes and 10 boundaries, as the former Knight Rider player, playing in his first match of the tournament, won the match single-handedly with 11 balls to spare.
Gayle, who went unsold in the January auction after the Shah Rukh Khan-co-owned side decided against retaining the player, made a bold statement in front of what was his ‘home’ crowd till the last season.
KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir used all his resources, but to no avail, as Gayle along with Tillakaratne Dilshan put on 123 runs in just 12.1 overs to set a solid platform.
The former West Indies skipper, drafted into the Bangalore team as replacement for injured Aussie pacer Dirk Nannes, was cautious to start with.
But once he got his eye in, there was no looking back. Gayle made his intention clear in the fifth over when he hit rookie left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat for back-to-back four and a six.
Challengers raced to 57 for no loss in the first powerplay but the run-rate zoomed further as Gayle started to explode.
The explosive West Indian got to his half-century in style, hitting Yusuf Pathan for a huge six, which covered a distance of 104 metres.
After reaching his fifty in 32 balls and with five fours and four sixes, Gayle went on to better his previous best IPL score of 88, which he had scored while playing for KKR.
Such was his power hitting that even the gigantic Eden Gardens proved to be to small.
Dilshan, at the other end, played sensibly, giving the bulk of the strike to Gayle before getting out for 38.
His innings came from 31 balls and had six fours. But by the time KKR got their first and only breakthrough, the contest was as good as over.
Virat Kohli played the perfect foil to Gayle, scoring a sensible 23-ball 30 with the help of three boundaries and a six.
Earlier, Yusuf Pathan’s late burst and useful contributions from Jacques Kallis and Gambhir helped Kolkata post a challenging score of 171 for five.
Yusuf consolidated with a smashing 46 from only 24 balls that had three huge sixes and three boundaries after Kallis (40, 42 balls, 3x4) and Gautam Gambhir (48, 38 balls, 6x4) set the platform.
Courtesy some wayward bowling from India speedster Zaheer Khan who conceded 53 from his four overs, KKR got off to a breezy start.
Put into bat under gloomy conditions, Kallis and Brad Haddin zoomed to 33 for no loss from the first two overs with an error-prone Zaheer giving away 19 from his first.
But slow bowlers put brakes on the Knight Riders run-rate as left-arm spinner Syed Mohammad (1/20) impressed on his IPL debut.
He scalped the dangerous looking Haddin to give the first breakthrough.
Brought in place of Brett Lee, Haddin looked to attack as he raced to 18 from 11 balls including one six and two boundaries but his innings was cut short by Syed.
Kallis however batted intelligently as he steadied the innings while Gambhir also showed positive intent.
Looking to put brakes on Gambhir’s innings, Vettori brought in Zaheer for his second spell but the KKR skipper counter-attacked his India teammate hitting him for two boundaries as they took 14 runs from the 10th over of the innings.
On 39, Kallis got a breather after AB de Villers missed a stumping chance but the KKR all-rounder fell to a brilliant catch by Gayle in the very next over.
The duo put on 58 runs from 51 balls for the second wicket to set a launchpad for the Knights who were in command with scoreboard reading 102 for two after 13.2 overs.
It was left for Pathan to entertain the crowd with some lusty hitting.
Two short of a half-century, Gambhir was dismissed by the rookie Sreenath Aravind but Pathan continued with his blitzkrieg to take the Knight Riders score past 150 after 18 overs.
Pathan was brilliantly caught by Kohli at the long off boundary as KKR could manage only 7 runs from the last over.