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Gautam Gambhir treated the 58,201 vociferous fans at the Eden Gardens to a superlative batting exhibition as he led Kolkata to a thumping 47 run victory against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The southpaw batted with aggression and precision en route to a rollicking 51-ball 93 that was adorned with 9 boundaries and 5 sixes. Jacques Kallis(41) provided the final flourish and lifted KKR to an intimidating 190-4. In response, RCB lost wickets in clusters and slumped to 143-6, thus falling 47 shy of the target. The Kolkata bowlers exploited the Eden Gardens pitch expertly and spun a web around Bangalore's batsmen. While Kallis scalped 2 sticks, mystery spinner, Sunil Narine capped off the game with awesome figures of 1-11. Chris Gayle top-scored for RCB with a bizarre 86. The Jamaican's innings could be summed up as stagnation and explosion. The tidy Kolkata bowlers neutralized the Gayle threat in the powerplay and though he ran rampant in the closing overs of the match all it did was to minimize the extent of the humiliation.
The two most glamorous teams of the Indian Premier League, the Knight Riders and the Royal Challengers took to the field at the Eden Gardens in the 38th match of the season. Prior to this summit clash, there was nothing but net run rate to pick between the two sides. Kolkata and Bangalore, both of whose previous games were washed out without a ball being bowled were aiming to score over each other moving into the latter half of the league phase. The Knight Riders won the toss and chose to bat first on a traditional slow turner. The news from the Bangalore camp was that Captain Daniel Vettori, who suffered a minor niggle during the rain ruined match against Chennai was back. This meant that Andrew McDonald was once again relegated to the sidelines. The hosts too made a single change with slow left arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla coming in for Laxmipathy Balaji. Much to the ecstasy of the fans, the weather appeared pleasant and a full contest was in the offing.
Zaheer Khan opened the bowling as always for the Royal Challengers, but was far from his best today, conceding 21 runs from his first two overs. Gautam Gambhir's cut shot had majestic written all over it and saw the Eden Gardens find her legendary voice again after grey skies and heavy rain forced an abandonment on Tuesday. The stylish southpaw with lady luck by his side took a special liking to Zaheer and helped himself to a few fours. The Royal Challengers, who pride themselvew on their fielding skills floored two difficult chances. The Kolkata commander was literally at home, flowing like a perennial river. The out of form, Brendon McCullum at the other end was quite content to let Gambhir do the bulk of the scoring. Amidst the Gautam Gambhir's show, Vettori's parsimonious first over seemed an aberration. It was advantage Kolkata at 46-0 in 6 overs.
Though Vettori kept shuffling his bowlers around, none of them managed to contain the flurry of fours. Just like how Mahela Jayawardene did yesterday, Gambhir proved that silken touch and finesse could be as effective as muscle power even in T20s. Soon, McCullum got into the action by greeting compatriot Vettori with consecutive boundaries. The Kiwi batsman, growing in confidence, showed that he was unafraid to skip down the track against his crafty country-mate.The dynamic pair collared the visitors mercilessly, plundering runs without breaking a sweat.
However, Vettori had the last cleaning up McCullum in the 11th over for a 37 ball 43. Despite the loss of his opening partner, Gauti continued to score at a rapid pace. During the process he completed his fifty and also leapfrogged to third spot on the all-time IPL run-getter's list. Jacques Kallis coming in at one drop did the right thing by manipulating the strike sans any fuss. Well placed at 121-1 in 14 overs, KKR were eyeing a gigantic score in excess of 170.
Gautam 'Unstoppable' Gambhir switched to top gear, clearing the fence with uncommon regularity. The fifty of the 2nd wicket stand came up in a flash from just 34 deliveries. Gambhir's ferocious pulls made one wonder whether he was Virender Sehwag batting left-handed!
Expectedly, Kallis too cut loose and joined the party when the he smacked Harshal Patel over the control room for a towering six in the 17th over. Moments later, the veteran pulled off a near repeat of the same shot, this time off Zaheer. Unfortunately for the hosts, Gambhir holed out to long off, 7 shy of a ton. Almost immediately Kallis (41) fell to Vinay Kumar attempting a cheeky paddle-sweep. Yusuf Pathan whacked a biggie over mid-wicket before he was dismissed off the final ball of the innings. Under the circumstances it was a good last over from Vinay Kumar, wherein he picked up two wickets, giving away 9 runs as Kolkata finished with a massive 190/2.
Yusuf Pathan kick-started KKR's defense in ideal fashion, getting rid of Tillakaratne Dilshan for a paltry 1 in the first over. The 29-year old, who was going through a rough patch, finally tasted success with his first wicket of IPL 5. Chris Gayle then announced himself to the Eden Gardens faithful with some lusty blows. The maverick marauder though was lucky to receive a reprieve when Sunil Narine spilled a dolly in the 3rd over. Virat Kohli (18) orchestrated a couple of scintillating drives before falling leg before to former Bangalore man, Kallis. Things got worse for RCB as Kallis extracted the dangerous AB de Villiers the very next ball. AB(0) stunned by Kallis' lifter spooned an easy catch to substitute fielder, Laxmi Shukla at mid-on. The Royal Challengers were in a disastrous predicament at 35-3 in 6 overs.
The strike eluded Chris Gayle and as a result the asking rate shot up to above 15. Shockingly there were no signs of urgency from Bangalore's batsmen. Cashing in, the Kolkata bowlers were adept at sneaking in quiet overs. Kolkata's bowling coach, Wasim Akram would have been proud of his bowlers' master-class performance.
Sunil Narine and Rajat Bhatia, bringing to the fore the slow nature of the turf forced Bangalore to yield. The struggling Sourabh Tiwary succomed to the wily Bhatia for an ultra slow 19. RCB's plight begged Chris Gayle to explode. But the big hits from Gayle's willow did not materialize as he found himself in a mid-innings muddle. At 87-4 in 15 overs, the writing on the wall became clear for the men in red.
Gayle finally bid farewell to his subdued approach and slammed three fours off Kallis' final over. The West Indian reached a very indifferent half-century. Meanwhile, Sunil Narine nabbed Mayank Agarwal's wicket (10) and completed his spell with mind-blowing figures of 1-11.
Gayle tore into Bhatia, carting the medium pacer around for 22 in the penultimate over and brought a bit of cheer to the RCB supporters. But it was all too little too late. The Gayle storm departed in the final over and KKR romped home by a convincing margin of 47 runs.
The clinical Kolkata Knight Riders will next head into the lions den to take on Chennai in another big-ticket square-off on Monday. The Royal Challengers Bangalore will have a 3 day break to do some soul searching and introspection before they lock horns with a resurgent Kings XI Punjab side on May 2 at the M.Chinnaswamy stadium.
KKR: G Gambhir(c), B McCullum, M Bisla(wk), M Tiwary, J Kallis, Y Pathan, D Das, B Lee, R Bhatia, I Abdulla, S Narine
RCB: C Gayle, M Aggarwal, T Dilshan, V Kohli, S Tiwary, AB de Villiers(wk), D Vettori(c), H Patel, KP Appana, Z Khan, V Kumar
KKR: 190-2 (20 overs, 9.5 rpo)
G Gambhir 93(51) V Kumar 2-31
B McCullum 43(37) D Vettori 1-29
RCB: 143-6 (20 overs, 7.21 rpo)
C Gayle 86(58) J Kallis 2-31
S Tiwary 19(22) S Narine 1-11
KKR won by 47 runs
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