Kolkata: Chris Gayle hammered the Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers into submission with a breathtaking 96 that guided Royal Challengers Bangalore to a three-wicket victory in an Indian Premier League encounter here on Saturday.
Chasing a victory target of 178, Gayle singlehandedly tore apart the home team attack as his 56-ball innings had seven boundaries and an equal number of sixes as the five-pronged KKR spin attack was taken to cleaners.
When Gayle was out, RCB still needed seven runs but Abu Nechim Ahmed (5 not out) and Harshal Patel (9 not out) kept their calm to see their team home with an over to spare.
Gayle was dropped by Morne Morkel while on 63 and the total on 131 for five which the 'Big Jamaican' capitalised fully with some meaty blows as most of his sixes went deep into the Eden Gardens stand.
Coming out to open, skipper Virat Kohli safely negotiated Morkel's first over and in the next over by the pacer, pulled him for a six over square leg while Gayle got a boundary.
However Morkel got his revenge in the next over with a short delivery. Kohli was done in by the extra bounce as he gloved a rising delivery to Robin Uthappa having scored only 13 off 15 deliveries.
Gayle, however, decided to take on KKR's mystery spinner KC Cariappa hitting him down the ground for a six and one over mid-on for a boundary.
The 50 came in the 8th over but Yusuf Pathan got a breakthrough when an out-of-form Dinesh Karthik (6) decided to cut against run-of-play to get bowled.
Mandeep Singh (6) shouldn't mind if he gets an earful from his skipper as he went for a non-existent reverse sweep having hit Pathan for a straight six as RCB suddenly slumped to 56/3 from 50/1 within a space of four deliveries.
AB de Villiers (28 off 13 balls) punished Cariappa for 16 runs before he charged down to get stumped as RCB were reduced to 93/4 in 11 overs.
While Gayle completed his 50 off 37 balls, wickets kept falling at the other end but the marauding West Indian continued to torment the bowlers as the 'Red Brigade' finally romped home.
Earlier, Andre Russell's spectacular cameo enabled defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders reach a comfortable 177 for six after being put into bat by Kohli.
Russell smashed 41 off 17 balls with six boundaries and two sixes after skipper Gautam Gambhir created a platform with his second successive half-century in as many matches.
Courtesy Gambhir's 58 off 46 balls (7x4, 1x6) and Robin Uthappa (35 from 28 balls; 4x4), KKR got a flying start with an 81-run opening partnership but couldn't capitalise due to some poor batting between 11-15 overs that saw them finish at least 15 runs short.
The KKR opening duo faced 64 balls for their 81 runs with skipper being lucky when AB de Villiers dropped a sitter when he was on 31 with the unlucky bowler being Abu Nechim Ahmed.
KKR were in a spot at 131 for four when they lost Manish Pandey (23) and Suryakumar Yadav (11) quickly but Russell took charge to take the team to safety.
Before RCB could make any further inroad Russell entertained the packed Eden crowd towards the death with his 17-ball 41 studded with six fours and two sixes.
Put in, KKR could not have asked for a better start, with two boundaries that went past their fielders and another run from an desperate overthrow for 13 runs from the first over bowled by Sean Abbott.
More than the runs that Abott leaked in the first over, it was RCB's frantic approach that it seemed derailed them as they looked mentally exhausted.
Considered one of the safest fielders in the modern day cricket, De Villiers fluffed a catch and looked edgy in fielding among all of them.
KKR raced to 40 from four overs and the duo notched their 50-run partnership in 32 balls.
Gambhir going all guns blazing with 31 from 27 balls pulled a short ball of Abu Nechim Ahmed as it went straight to the ever reliable de Villiers but the ball was seen popped out of the South African's hands in one unbelievable moment.
RCB finally managed to get the breakthrough after 10 overs with Abu Nechim breaking the opening partnership for 81 when Uthappa (35) holed out to Darren Sammy at long on.
Kohli's men made a comeback by getting a second breakthrough when legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal dismissed Gambhir with a wrong one. KKR earlier brought in uncapped rookie spinner KC Cariappa in place of Umesh Yadav in a bold move against a team that boasted the most explosive batting line-up in Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers.
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