Gambhir played a captain’s innings to lead Kolkata to victory
Gautam Gambhir shrugged off his recent batting woes with a spectacular innings against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, which sealed victory for the Kolkata.
Gambhir, however, was also well supported by teammate Manvinder Bisla, as both batsmen took the fight to Bangalore, who did not have an answer to stop the onslaught.
Bangalore captain, Daniel Vettori won the toss, much to the delight of the fans, and elected to have a bowl first.
However, before the game could get under way, there was a electrical problem that caused a short delay, but soon the Kolkata opening batsmen, Jacques Kallis and captain Gautam Gambhir had taken their places at the crease, and the match was ready to begin.
Kolkata got off to a flier of a start, as they absolutely hammered the Bangalore bowling attack all over the ground.
Kallis and Gambhir, kept the runs flowing at a very healthy run rate, and soon, they had registered a fifty run partnership, which put a very worried look on the face of Vettori, who may have been considering whether he should have chosen to bat first after winning the toss.
With the partnership continuing to increase, Bangalore were in desperate need of a wicket, and it was the captain himself who delivered it, when Kallis attempted a cut shot off a delivery that did not spin as much as he had anticipated, and in the end, he ended up getting a huge edge straight into the gloves of AB de Villiers behind the stumps.
Kallis was dismissed on 22 runs, which included three boundaries and a six, while the partnership he and Gambhir had put together, was ended on 60 runs, at a blistering run rate of 9.47.
Kolkata were determined not to let the wicket of Kallis affect their progress, and when Manvinder Bisla joined Gambhir at the crease, they continued on from where Gambhir and Kallis had left off.
With the runs coming at a quick rate, Kolkata were looking very likely to post a massive total for the Royal Challengers Bangalore to chase down.
To make matters worse, Gambhir soon registered his half century off only 28 deliveries with a beautiful shot over extra cover that flew to the boundary.
With the pair flying past yet another fifty partnership, things were starting to get out of hand for the Bangalore bowlers.
However, just as Bisla was creeping up towards his own half century, Muttiah Muralitharan, bowled a brilliant flighted delivery that Bisla was completely beaten by, and this allowed de Villiers to whip off the bails before Bisla could ground his bat.
Bisla’s innings of 46 off 29 balls, in which he smashed two boundaries and three huge sixes, was vital in Kolkata’s aim of posting a big total.
The partnership he and Gambhir put together had also been ended at 65 runs, at an outstanding run rate of 9.06.
When Bisla had departed, the game suddenly changed dramatically, as the entire middle and lower order of the Kolkata batting lineup collapsed.
First to go after Bisla was Yusuf Pathan, who only made one run, before slicing the ball straight into the hands of Chris Gayle at point.
Thirteen runs later, it was Gambhir’s turn to go back to the pavilion, after he tried to reverse sweep the ball, but ended up spooning a simple catch straight to Harshal Patel at short third man, which brought a close to his dazzling innings on 64 off just 39 balls, where he hit nine boundaries and a six.
Just three deliveries later, Manoj Tiwary was also out, when he failed to pick up on a slower delivery, and ended up hitting the ball straight down the throat of deep square leg.
Next to depart was Kolkata’s Dutch import, Ryan ten Doeschate, who tried to play a sweep shot, only to be caught at short fine leg by captain Vettori.
The collapse further continued when Shakib Al Hasan was caught at long-off after attempting to clear the boundary with a lofted drive.
Laxmi Shukla joined the rest of his team-mates in the dressing room, after Zaheer Khan pulled off a stunning catch at the wide mid-on region.
However, a little life was put back into the Kolkata innings when Brett Lee and Rajat Bhatia smashed 11 runs off the last three deliveries to end the innings on a respectable total of 165.
Zaheer Khan, Vinay Kumar and Muttiah Muralitharan, all took two wickets for Bangalore, while Harshal Patel and Daniel Vettori picked up a wicket each.
Set a target of 166 to win, the Royal Challengers Bangalore opening batsmen, Chris Gayle and Cheteshwar Pujara, were looking to get off to a good start.
But, just 10 balls into the innings, Pujara was caught in the slips by Yusuf Pathan when trying to guide a delivery down to the third man region.
One run later, Kolkata got the prize wicket of Chris Gayle, when he got a top edge off an attempted pull shot over the midwicket region, that ended up in the hands of Laxmi Shukla at mid-on.
Things continued to go from bad to worse for Bangalore, as Virat Kohli, who has not been in good form since the beginning of the IPL, was caught at point for just six runs, after getting a leading edge from trying to work the ball into the leg side.
Five runs later, AB de Villiers was back in the pavilion after getting comprehensively bowled by a peach of a delivery from Lakshmipathy Balaji, that skidded off the surface and broke right through his defence.
Just as things looked as if it couldn’t get worse, Kolkata struck with yet another wicket, as this time, Mayank Agarwal, played a terrible shot and was caught by captain Gambhir at extra cover.
With the Royal Challengers reeling at 33 runs for the fall of half their batsmen, captain Daniel Vettori and Saurabh Tiwary, worked together to produce a 27 run partnership off just 16 balls, at a run rate of 10.12, before Vettori’s off stump was disturbed by a delivery from Balaji.
Eighteen runs later, Tiwary himself was dismissed for 18 when he played an awkward looking pull shot straight down the throat of the man at deep midwicket.
Harshal Patel and Vinay Kumar smacked a quick 28 run partnership, to get Bangalore past the 100 mark, but soon after, Patel was clean bowled by Shakib Al Hasan when trying to run a straight delivery down to third man.
With two overs left remaining in the match, Bangalore still needed 60 runs to win, however Vinay Kumar and Zaheer Khan could only amass 17 runs, before Vinay Kumar was caught off the final delivery at long on, which handed Kolkata the match by 42 runs.
Lakshmipathy Balaji was the star of the Kolkata bowling attack, taking four wickets, while Jacques Kallis and Shakib Al Hasan picked up two wickets each, and Ryan ten Doeschate chipped in with one as well.
Balaji, edged out Gambhir’s scintillating knock to capture the Man of the Match honours, and said: “In T20, bowlers get into the other end, today I got my momentum going. Jacques and Lee gave us the start though. It gives a lot of pleasure when you get a top player like de Villiers.”
Bangalore captain, Daniel Vettori, was extremely disappointed with the team’s batting performance, and said: “It was a spectacular performance from us with the ball. That opening spell from Lee, Kallis and Balaji set us back and we could not recover. It was exceptional bowling from them. We continually lost wickets.”
Kolkata captain, Gautam Gambhir, was pleased with his side’s performance, especially that of Balaji’s, and said: “It was important for us to get on the board, we have the quality in the team, if we play to our potential, then we will be hard to beat. Balaji’s bowling today was the best I have seen in a Twenty20 competition.”
With Kolkata absolutely dominating Bangalore during the match, they will be looking to do the same thing when playing against the Rajasthan Royals on April 13.
Bangalore meanwhile, will be looking to put this horrendous loss behind them and start fresh when they go up against the defending champions, the Chennai Super Kings on April 12.