Gayle sets winners RCB off on right foot
Chris Gayle sent the Royal Challengers Bangalore off on the right foot and they maintained control to complete a 35-run victory over the Pune Warriors in their Indian Premier League match at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Friday.
Gayle was once again batting on another planet as his sensational opening onslaught of 57 off 31 balls steered the Royal Challengers to 173 for three, which was always likely to be enough after Zaheer Khan and Vinay Kumar knocked off the cream of the Pune top-order.
Zaheer switched from over the wicket to around and immediately earned an lbw decision from umpire Billy Bowden against Mohnish Mishra (4) and, two balls later, the left-armer showed his wonderful skills with a delivery that pitched off and hit off to remove Manish Pandey for a duck.
Australian captain Michael Clarke is no doubt unaccustomed to being affiliated with such a struggling side as the basement-dwelling Pune Warriors and he confidently hit out, stroking a couple of boundaries in his 13 off 10 balls before his heave to leg off Vinay found the hands of Manoj Tiwary at deep midwicket.
Pune were 22 for three but Anustup Majumdar then linked up with Robin Uthappa to add 50 for the fourth wicket off just 28 balls.
But the dismissals of both batsmen - Uthappa was stumped by AB de Villiers off Muttiah Muralitharan for 38 off 23 balls and Majumdar was well-caught by Zaheer off Harshal Patel for 31 - left the Warriors in need of a miracle with 72 needed off 35 balls and just four wickets left.
Wicketkeeper De Villiers also claimed the scalp of Angelo Mathews (4), who charged down the pitch and played the worst shot of the match to be stumped off left-arm spinner KP Appanna.
At 105 for six after 15 overs, it was obvious that the Challengers would be victorious and the brilliant bowling of Muralitharan, Zaheer and Vinay ensured that the victory would be comprehensive, the eighth-biggest in terms of runs in this year's IPL.
The experience and class of Zaheer (4-0-21-2) and Muralitharan (4-0-16-2) spearheaded the Bangalore attack, while Vinay finished with the impressive figures of three for 32.
Gayle's belligerence had earlier taken Bangalore to 80 for one in the ninth over but, despite Tillakaratne Dilshan's 53, the visitors faded away in the second half of their innings. Coach Ray Jennings is an independent thinker, but his continued refusal to bat De Villiers higher than number five is an outrage and a major topic of discussion.
De Villiers was left in the dugout until the 18th over and could face just four balls, scoring nine not out, before the end of the innings.
The Indian newspapers will once again be full of another spectacular innings by Gayle, who was ruthless from the outset, hitting the first and last balls of the third over bowled by Krishnakant Upadhyay for six.
The left-hander then had no pity on seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar as he belted him for four sixes in the sixth over, reaching his half-century off just 24 balls, the fastest in this year's IPL.
But the impressive Mathews greatly limited the damage as he had Gayle caught at long-on, flat-batting a slower ball, and the Challengers finished with a total that was under expectations given their start.
Captain Virat Kohli under-performed again as he was caught off the leading edge at short-cover off leg-spinner Rahul Sharma for just nine and Dilshan eventually fell for 53 off 44 balls as he was run out, backing up too far, by the quick-thinking Alfonso Thomas.
The last three overs were the only section of the second half of the innings in which the Bangalore batsmen dominated as Saurabh Tiwary finally threatened the crowd with two fours and a six and De Villiers hit the last ball of the innings for six as well.
Tiwary scratched around without much purpose for most of his innings, finishing with 36 not out off 30 balls, which didn't bother the home crowd much. He was also unable to rotate the strike effectively, which meant De Villiers was not able to face anything more than a handful of deliveries.
Mathews was a cut above the other Pune bowlers, removing Gayle in full flight and conceding just three runs in the 16th over as he finished with one for 14 in three overs.
PUNE WARRIORS - Michael Clarke, Mohnish Mishra, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Steven Smith, Angelo Mathews, Anustup Majumdar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Alfonso Thomas.
BANGALORE ROYAL CHALLENGERS - Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Mayank Agarwal, Saurabh Tiwary, Vinay Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Harshal Patel, Muttiah Muralitharan, KP Appanna.