Bangalore: Inspired by their bowlers and boosted by a bullish innings from Chris Gayle, a clinical Royal Challengers Bangalore recorded an eight-wicket win to move to No. 1 and hand Kolkata Knight Riders their second loss in a row in IPL 6. The match was effectively decided by Gayle's 50-ball 85 after Kolkata managed an underwhelming total on an M Chinnaswamy Stadium surface and outfield aiding the batsmen after RCB captain Virat Kohli asked Gautam Gambhir's team to have first use.
Kohli's decision to field was vindicated by his bowlers, in particular RP Singh who struck four timely blows in the last five overs to ensure a late surge never resulted for KKR; from 124 for 3 in the 17th over they finished on 154 for 8. Apart from skipper Gambhir, who collected his 17th IPL fifty, no batsman made an impact.
Few teams end up on the winning side after a Gayle special, and such was his touch on Thursday that what could have been a tricky chase ended up being a cakewalk. The early exit of Mayank Agarwal for 12, edging Ryan McLaren to Manvinder Bisla, and a maiden third over from Jacques Kallis was smoothed over by some punchy shots from Gayle to take RCB to 43 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay. The sixth over cost 22 with Gayle striking two big sixes off McLaren.
Dot balls were interspersed with powerful shots, such as the extra-cover drive from Kohli off L Balaji and Gayle's slap off Pradeep Sangwan's first delivery. Kohli sensed the need to target Sangwan, playing his first match of the season, and in consecutive balls he pulled sixes, the first off the front foot to raise the 50-stand in 36 balls. However, Kohli fell for 35 to Balaji while attempting a lofted drive.
With Gayle up and running, Sangwan's woes continued with the West Indian rocketing a flat pull for six and AB de Villiers carving four past cover to hand him figures of 0 for 34 in two overs. Gayle's fifth six saw Balaji dumped rows behind midwicket, and his fifty came up off 32 balls with a single off Sunil Narine. Kallis was then savaged for two more sixes, one of which was a no-ball, and sixes No. 8 and 9 came off Balaji to hasten victory with 15 balls remaining. A drop by Manoj Tiwary at cover when de Villiers was on 7 proved costly, as the South Africa weighed in with 22 in a match-winning partnership of 63 with Gayle.
The game was set up by the bowlers earlier in the day. KKR managed just two significant partnerships - 51 for the second wicket and 41 for the second. The 51 came between Gambhir and Kallis following Bisla's exit in the first over, slapping a cut off Moises Henriques to debutant KL Rahul at point. Gambhir tucked into RP with two fours off the second over, then whipped Henriques past midwicket and drove Muttiah Muralitharan past cover. Unfortunately for KKR, the support was not strong enough.
Kallis' poor run continued as he charged Vinay Kumar and picked out the fielder at deep cover first ball of the ninth over. Kallis' last six scores in T20 (three in this IPL and three in last year's CLT20) read 16, 23, 0, 18, 0 and 0. Yusuf Pathan was promoted to No. 4 and cracked his first three deliveries for four - to long-off, deep point and square leg - off Vinay. A smacking pull off Jaydev Unadkat for six threatened more but on 27 Yusuf's aggression got the better of him as he lofted Henriques to long-on.
From 113 for 3 in 15 overs, Kolkata managed 41 in the last five for the loss of five wickets. Gambhir top-edged a pull back to Vinay for 59 off 46 balls in the 17th; Eoin Morgan (2) chipped to long-on and Tiwary (23) swung to midwicket in the 18th; and RP added to his impressive outing by running out McLaren (2) and bowling Rajat Bhatia (13) in the last over which cost just six runs. Vinay's two wickets - Gambhir and Kallis - made him the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.