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Gayle fireworks lead RCB to much-needed win

Wisden India logo Wisden India 18-04-2017

How much impact can the brim of a hat have on a cricket match?

Chris Gayle was on 38 when he smashed Ravinda Jadeja down the ground with typically brute force, only for Brendon McCullum to intercept with a stunning, flying catch at long-off. Gujarat Lions heaved a huge sigh of relief, but it proved to be temporary, as the flap of McCullum’s hat had touched the rope for perhaps a microsecond as he completed the dive.

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Gayle made good use of the slice of luck and went on to smash 77 off 38 balls, and along with the ever consistent Virat Kohli (64 off 50), powered Royal Challengers Bangalore to a mammoth 213 for 2 in their 20 overs, in the process becoming the only player to cross 10,000 runs in Twenty20 cricket.

McCullum threatened to spoil Gayle’s party as he hammered 72 off 44 – studded with seven sixes and two fours – but Gujarat could only muster 192 for 7, falling short by 21 runs.

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Bangalore needed their batsmen to come good after a poor game against Rising Pune Supergiant, and they found the right man to pull them back up in Gayle. Put in to bat, Kohli and Gayle saw through the first two overs in sedate fashion before Kohli got going with three boundaries off Dhawal Kulkarni, including a gorgeous straight drive. Gayle then went past mount 10K in the next over, squeezing Basil Thampi to third man.

Once the milestone was out of the way, Gayle turned to beast-mode in no time. He got going by smashing Thampi and Shivil Kaushik over the long-off boundary with ease.

Gujarat still managed to keep Bangalore to 45 in the Power Play, but it all changed in the eighth over. Gayle unleashed his power, hammering Jadeja for two sixes – including the McCullum ‘catch’ – and two fours in a 21-run over, and followed it up with another massive six out of the stadium off Kaushik to race past his half-century off just 23 balls.

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More sixes flew off Gayle’s bat as he toyed around with Dwayne Smith, taking Bangalore past 100 in just the 11th over.

The only bowler who seemed like stopping Gayle was Thampi, who impressed by bowling yorkers at will. One such yorker ended the Gayle carnage in the 13th over, trapping him plumb in front.

But there would be no respite as Kohli, who accumulated runs almost silently amid the Gayle storm, took over and crossed his half-century. He hit his first six only after reaching the mark but fell soon, holing out in the deep in the 16th over trying to hit Kulkarni out of the park.

Watch: Gayle becomes the first to score 10,000 runs in T20s

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Kedhar Jadhav and Travis Head, though, ensured Bangalore still crossed the 200 mark, smashing 68 runs off the 32 balls between them.

Bangalore started their defence with spin at both ends and it paid off immediately as Smith pulled Yuzvendra Chahal straight down deep square-leg’s throat in the second over.

Suresh Raina began in a sizzling fashion smashing S Aravind for two sixes and a four in the third over but his cameo ended in the very next over when he swept a Chahal delivery down leg – one of the most ordinary balls of the day – straight to short fine-leg.

Two crucial early wickets in a massive chase wasn’t an ideal start but Gujarat were in no mood to give up as McCullum showed his strokeplay in a freeflowing knock. He found and cleared the boundaries at will and raced past his half-century off just 30 balls, almost single handedly keeping Gujarat on par with the required rate for the most part.

In fact, Gujarat were ahead of where Bangalore were for the initial half of the innings. Gujarat managed 57 runs in the Power Play and scored 103 in the first 10, as opposed to Bangalore’s scores of 45 and 92 at the corresponding stages. Where Gujarat fell behind was in the wickets column, especially when Aaron Finch and Dinesh Karthik fell in quick succession.

Gujarat needed 108 from 54 balls when Karthik fell, miscuing Aravind to long-on, but Gujarat still had a ray of hope as McCullum was still in the middle. He got the equation down to 80 off the last six overs, but Gujarat suffered their biggest blow when he fell slogging Chahal to deep midwicket in the 15th over.

The chase seemed to lose steam then but Ishan Kishan, just 18 years of age, wasn’t giving up. He smashed 39 off 16 balls – including 21 from the penultimate over bowled by Aravind – but Gujarat still needed 26 off the final over which proved too many.

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