Kolkata: When Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli are in a batting line-up, most teams would back themselves to chase down any target.
Having been asked by Royal Challengers Bangalore to take first strike on Saturday, Kolkata Knight Riders may have wondered how many they had ro put on the board.
RCB star batsman Chris Gayle. Photo: AFP
Helped by some shoddy fielding, which saw several catches go abegging, and an unbeaten 17-ball 41 by Andre Russell, they managed a challenging 277 for 6. It proved just short in the face of aanother Gayle storm as RCBwon by 3 wickets. Gayle, was run out in the 19th over for a 56-ball 96 that had seven boundaries and and equal number of sixes.
Unleashing the unknown by giving 'mystery' bowler KC Cariappa his IPL debut by dropping Umesh Yadav, KKR invested more in spin, and would have been happy to bowl second on a pitch that was certainly drier and allowed more grip than the one KKR beat Mi on Wednesday.
Cariappa had to shelved after just one over after it yieldedc 12 runs but Yusuf Pathan stepped in to snare the wickets of Dinesh Karthik and Mandeep Singh in quick succession. That's when de Villers joined Gayle, who looked to be in only the second gear but was still operating at a 150 strike-rate. The burly West Indian was reduced to a spectator as his South African teammate tore into the bowling.
Just when Cariappa looked a helpless heap, de Villiers having clobbered him for a couple of fours and a six on his comeback over, the youngster got his man -- the South African charging down the track to be stumped. His 28, off 13 deliveries, had three boundaries and a couple of six. It signalled the change of gear for Gayle.
Even as he went on the overdrive, skipper Gambhir brought back Sunil Narine, who looked far sharper this night. With Shakib Al Hasan thrown in from the other end, it was make or break moment. It paid off as Darren Sammy was stumped off the wily left-arm spinner.
But the Gayle show was about to begin. Dropped on 61 by Morne Morkel in the deep, the West Indian hogged the strike, and after he got out, No. 8 Harshal Patel and Abu Nechim carried them over the line.
Earlier, the KKR openers were allowed to quickly settle by some poor fielding. A couple of fours from misfields, an overthrow... the first over, bowled by Sean Abbott, brought 13 runs for KKR. His first ball of the second over was lifted by Gambhir for a six. RCB's main bowler in the absence of World Cup hero Mitchel Starc was quickly rendered ineffective -- and the fumbling fielders had to take a great deal of the the blame.
The medium-pace of Assam's Abu Nechim and the leg-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal slowed things down but Russell's cameo took KKR to a challenging total.