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Cricket | IPL

Chris Gayle © Sportzpics

Runs galore as RCB return to winning ways

Two of the world’s true T20 giants, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum, put on a masterclass of power hitting as the West Indian’s Royal Challengers Bangalore beat the New Zealander’s Gujarat Lions by 21 runs at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot in their Indian Premier League clash on Tuesday evening.

Full Scorecard: Gujarat v Bangalore

Gayle became the first man to reach 10 000 T20 runs in a trademark display of brute force as he bludgeoned 77 from just 38 balls to help RCB reach 213-2 before McCullum, who has the second most T20 runs with 7596, motored to 72 from 44 balls in Gujarat’s reply of 192-7.

When chasing a score above 200, you need to get off to a good start but that is exactly what the home side failed to do when Dwayne Smith picked out deep square leg off Yuzvendra Chahal (3-31 from 4) in the second ball of the innings for a duck.

If McCullum and Suresh Raina (23 from 8) were shaken by the early loss, they didn’t show it as they got stuck in to the bowlers before some quick thinking from Chahal got the breakthrough to leave Gujarat in trouble at 37-2.

Raina charged out his crease but Chahal spotted him early and pushed the ball wide, forcing the Gujarat captain to play a hasty stroke that found Shane Watson at short fine leg. No matter, McCullum had to keep going full tilt to make a game of this.

And go he did, smashing two fours and seven sixes in an innings that proved there is still some gas left in the 35-year-old tank. While he was at the crease, Gujarat had a hope.

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It is nine years to the day since the veteran Kiwi scored 158 not out for the Kolkata Knight Riders against RCB and he looked every bit as good today as he did then. He drove and pulled with aplomb but no one played a better and more audacious stroke than he did off Adam Milne (1-43 from 4), cross batting a steep bouncer for six over extra cover.

McCullum’s exploits were heightened by his teammate’s struggles as he watched Aaron Finch (19 from 15) and Dinesh Karthik (1 from 4) fall within two overs of each other.

But he kept going, single-handedly taking the fight to RCB but could not see his team over the line as Chahal got the game changing wicket in the 15th. The legspinner bravely tossed one up to invite the big hit from McCullum who duly obliged but couldn’t get all of it, only managing to sky the ball out to deep extra where Milne made a tough chance under pressure look easy.

The Gujarat lower order are a capable bunch, with Ravindra Jadeja (22 from 21) and Ishan Kishan (39 from 16) more than useful with bat in hand, but the required task was beyond them.

It was always going to be a tough ask as Gayle anchored the first T20 score above 200 on this ground in a historic innings that he will never forget. The towering Jamaican has been out of sorts lately and brought up his ten thousandth run with a sketchy edge to third man. After that though, the shackles were off and the old Gayle force was back.

Every ball that landed in his arc, too many for the home fans’ liking, was dispatched with consummate ease as he struck seven sixes, including one that will be remembered for an odd choice of clothing.

Gayle had already smashed Jadeja (0-57 from 4) for two fours when he hoisted the ball high towards the wide mid-off boundary. McCullum was patrolling the area but couldn’t quite reach the ball as it dropped and was forced into a superman dive.

He stuck out his right hand to grab what should have been a catch for the ages but the brim of his floppy hat gently kissed the boundary marker as his momentum rolled him over. The end result was another Gayle six, 21 runs from the over, and McCullum contemplating never wearing such an unnecessarily wide hat in the middle of the night again (though it was the same hat he wore while batting, demonstrating that cricket is a game of compromises).

Gayle would eventually fall to a searing yorker from Basil Thampi (1-31 from 4) that hit him full on the pads, but not before he registered a century stand with Virat Kohli (64 from 50). The duo have registered 10 hundred run partnerships in this format, three more than any other combination.

Gloss was added to the score thanks to an unbeaten 54 from 25 balls for the third wicket between Travis Head (30* from 16) and Kedar Jadhav (38* from 15) who capitalised on the platform provided by their superstar openers.

Gujarat came much closer than Kohli would have liked thanks to quality batting from McCullum and the tail, but also due to another poor bowling display. RCB have perennially been accused of being a batting heavy outfit and although this victory lifts them off the bottom of the log (now occupied by Gujarat), they have some work to do with the ball before they can think about challenging for a title they have yet to win. They next travel to Kolkata on Sunday to take on Jacques Kallis’ Knight Riders.

As for Gujarat, they are now in a heap of trouble. As the only team to register a single win, there is now daylight between them and the pack they’re chasing. They have a quick turnaround as their next game is on Friday, incidentally also against the table-topping Knight Riders.

An entertaining game between two incomplete teams provided plenty of thrills, sixes and records. What will be the takeaway from both sets of coaches and captains will be the amount of work that is still required.

GUJARAT LIONS: BB McCullum, DR Smith, SK Raina (capt), AJ Finch, KD Karthik (wk), Ishan Kishan, RA Jadeja, DS Kulkarni, Basil Thampi, AJ Tye, S Kaushik

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE: CH Gayle, V Kohli (capt), SR Watson, Mandeep Singh, TM Head, KM Jadhav (wk), STR Binny, P Negi, AF Milne, S Aravind, YS Chahal


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