Calcutta: If there were any concerns over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)’s batting so far in the IPL-V, captain Gautam Gambhir ensured that all doubts were put to rest at the Eden on Saturday.
He led the KKR from the front hitting a brilliant 93 off 51 balls to help his team to a mammoth total of 190 for four wickets against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
With the Eden wicket proving to be batsman friendly — the balls easily coming on to the bat — the stage was perfectly set for the big-hitting RCB batsmen to make a match out of it.
But KKR bowlers proved to be too good for the RCB batsmen. Their tight and disciplined bowling always kept the RCB run rate under check. Though Gayle (86, 7x4, 6x6) tried to make a late surge to bring a change in proceedings, it was too late.
The Bangalore-based team finished on 143 for six, handing the KKR team a handsome 47-run vicotry.
KKR bowlers, particularly Sunil Narine, never let the RCB batsmen off the hook.
Though Gambhir’s ploy to start with Yusuf Pathan failed to work in the earlier matches, the move paid off against RCB. Pathan took the wicket of Tillekaratne Dilshan in his first over. Dilshan, trying to loft Yusuf over mid-off, holed out to Rajat Bhatia.
Pathan was unlucky in his next over when he could have easily taken the wicket of Gayle, who was batting on 12. Gayle’s miscued slog went high in the air. Perhaps a moment of indecisiveness on the part of KKR fielders cost the team as four players were running to take the catch. But Narine, rushing in from long on, was the first to reach but dropped the catch.
Gayle did not need a second invitation.
He punished the bowlers with some exceptional hitting. His boundary off Brett Lee through the covers was top-drawer. He also hit two delightful sixes off Pathan.
However, he ran out of partners as KKR bowlers scalped wickets at regular intervals.
Virat Kohli (18) looked in control before Kallis trapped him in his first over. In the very next ball, Kallis got rid off the dangerous AB de Villiers. The South African misjudged a short ball, which kept a tad low, and scooped it only to find Laxmi Ratan Shukla at mid-on.
In the end, these early dismissals hurt RCB. The middle-order batsmen, who were left with the job of consolidating the innings, became a bit defensive, As a result, they always remained behind the asking rate.
Talking about KKR’s batting, Gambhir undoubtedly hogged the limelight. Aided by some spineless bowling from the opponents, Gambhir took to the Eden wicket as a duck takes to the water. His innings was laced with nine hits to the fence and five sixes. Incidentally, this was Gambhir’s highest score in the IPL.
The captain was well supported by Brendon McCullum (43) and Jacques Kallis (41) at the other end.
Gambhir and McCullum stitched together a partnership of 95 runs for the opening wicket.
Gambhir made his intentions clear from the first ball when he hit Zaheer Khan for a boundary through backward point.
He was harsh on Zaheers in next over too, hitting the pacer for two consecutive boundaries.
Zaheer was not the only bowler to get punished for his wayward bowling. In the 10th over, Gambhir welcomed medium pacer Harshal Patel with a six.
The KKR captain was equally devastating against the spinners. With the ball turning a bit, Gambhir used the crease to good effect to counter the spin. He often danced down the wicket to lift the spinners to fetch the boundaries.
The 58,201 crowd were brought to their feet when he came down the track to hit left-arm spinner KP Appanna for a six through mid-wicket.
With Gambhir looking to rip apart the RCB bowlers, McCullum and Kallis were happy to play second fiddle.
Though McCullum looked a bit uncomfortable against spin, he got rid of any nerves when he hit Daniel Vettori for two classic boundaries.
But Vettori had the final laugh when he bowled McCullum in his next over.
However, it did not deter Gambhir’s determination. He went on assaulting the bowlers before being finally dismissed by Zaheer. He was caught by Appanna at long-off.