KOLKATA: Demolition man Chris Gayle powered Royal Challengers Bangalore from a tough situation to a terrific three wicket win over title holders Kolkata Knight Riders in an Indian Premier league match in Kolkata on Saturday.
Replying to a challenging 177/6 posted by the Knight Riders, the visitors rode on the Gayle storm - as the Caribbean plundered 96 runs hammering seven fours and the same number of sixes, some of them landing at the far corner of the huge Eden Gardens galleries - to romp to 179/7 with a full over to spare before 61,000 plus spectators.
However, the script had looked much different at the end of the 15th over of the Royal Challengers' innings. Losing wickets at regular intervals and with most of their famed batsmen back in the dugout, the Bangalore based team needed 59 of 30 balls with five wickets at hand.
But then Gayle took over. Earlier dropped once by Morne Morkel of Yusuf Pathan, the Jamaican clobbered Pathan for a four and a six in the 16th over. The over ended with Morkel again flooring a Gayle catch, a slip that proved too costly for the Knights.
Sean Abbott was run out in the next over, but Gayle more than made up for that by dispatching Shakib Al Hasan for two back to back sixes as the Royal Challengers reached 146/6.
Eleven came from the 18th, while Gayle hoiked Morkel in the first ball of the penultimate over into the stands taking the Royals to 171/7, only seven short of victory.
But then what happened was an anti-climax. Gayle's meaty blow was stopped in the deep by Manish Pandey, and in his zeal to keep the strike, the Jamaican suddenly decided to go for a second run. It proved suicidal and Gayle was short of his crease when wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa uprooted the bails by latching on to the throw.
But by then the visitors' victory was a mere formality and Harshal Patel (9 not out) and Abu Nechim (5 not out) saw their side through.
Earlier, the Royals' reply began on a somewhat sedate note, with the two openers Gayle and captain Virat Kohli began cautiously, rotating the strike craftily.
Kohli (13) was out caught behind while trying to pull a short ball going down the leg of Morkel in 5th over with the score being 29.
Dinesh Karthick (6; 8b 1x4) was next to go castled by Yusuf Pathan. In the same over Mandeep Singh immediately after hitting a six was bowled by Pathan when he missed an attempted reverse sweep putting Bangalore in trouble with 56/3.
AB de Villiers, who tried to take the battle to the opponent camp with a 13-ball 28 (3x4, 2x6), danced down the track to K C Cariappa, missed and Uthappa did the rest.
In the evening, the Knight Riders built on a sound start provided by skipper Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa.
Gambhir continued his rollicking form in the tournament to crack a 46-ball 58 (7x4, 1x6) while Uthappa struck 35 of 28 deliveries (4x4) as the duo put on 81 for the opening wicket, before West Indies cricketer Andre Russel provided a perfect finish with a cameo at the Eden Gardens.
It was largely due to Russel's lusty hittings that 55 runs came of the last five overs, enabling the hosts to set an asking rate of 8.9 for the Royal Challengers after being put in to bat.
The Jamaican remained unconquered on a 17-ball 41 that was studded with six boundaries and two sixes on a day the visitors fielded sloppily dropping a couple of easy chances besides conceding a few runs due to their ineptness.