- IPL 2011
Chris Gayle arrived in India for the current IPL with more than just a point to prove. His form in the previous editions of the tournament had been disappointing and he had just spent an eventful week after obtaining clearance from a reluctant Windies Cricket Board with both parties trading barbed comments which were lapped up by the media.
The fact that he was playing against his former side was perhaps an added incentive as he bludgeoned his way to an unbeaten 102 – his first IPL century. He struck 10 fours and seven sixes in his knock which came off just 55 balls – the second-fastest century in this edition of the competition, and was the architect of Bangalore’s victory over Kolkata.
Gayle had only just landed in India as a late replacement for Bangalore’s Dirk Nannes after a turbulent week which saw him, Shivarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan – three stalwarts of West Indies cricket, omitted from their squad for the ongoing one-day series against Pakistan.
The opening pairing of Gayle and Sri Lanka’s newly appointed captain Tillekeratne Dilshan offered a mouth watering prospect and the duo did not disappoint their fans.Chasing 172 for victory, The Royal Challengers had raced to 123 in 12 overs when Dilshan was dismissed for 38. Gayle and Virat Kohli then eased Bangalore to their target ensuring a comprehensive nine wicket victory.
The pitch was proving to be tricky for the quicks and Kolkata opted to start with a spinner after having posted 171. Yusuf Pathan, who was battling a knee niggle, opened the bowling. After three good deliveries, Pathan strayed on the leg stump and Dilshan cashed in with four through square leg. With that, the flood gates were opened.
In the fourth over, Gayle had scored just three singles – while Dilshan had notched up 19 – when he was offered a full toss. He drove it down past the non-striker for the first of his 17 boundaries. It didn’t matter what Bangalore tried after that. Jaidev Unadkat was dispatched with disdain as Gayle went down on one knee, smacking him for six over long-on. Shakib Al Hasan was tossed around like a limp ragdoll, slogged over midwicket and mowed over deep square. Pathan was smoked through the covers. Gayle even showed a touch of deftness, playing one fine to the third man boundary.
The Gayle force blew on though. Together with Kohli, he brought the required run rate down to less than a run a ball. Kohli was given some room to express himself too, taking advantage of full balls offered by Balaji and showing off his wrist work against Bhatia. Kohli almost had too much fun and denied Gayle a century with a boundary off the first ball of the 18th over, that left Bangalore with just two to win. He blocked out the rest of the over to make amends.
Even a wide from Iqbal Abdulla couldn’t stop Gayle, who ended the innings with a smashing shot through the covers, winning the match with 11 balls to spare. Gayle, who was picked up by Bangalore as a replacement for the injured Dirk Nannes, wore a jersey with 333 – his highest Test score – on the back and made light work of a total that Kolkata should have been able to defend.
Earlier the Kolkata innings was held together by a classy 48 from captain Gautam Gambhir, patience from Jacques Kallis (40) and a measured assault by Yusuf Pathan (46).
Things started disastrously for Bangalore with Zaheer Khan’s first over going for 19 runs. It consisted of three wides, one of which went for four, and three boundaries, all off the bat of Kallis. Sreenath Aravind fared a little better, his first over going for 14.
Daniel Vettori rang in the changes immediately, replacing Khan with left-arm spinner Syed Mohammed. Together with Dilshan, he hauled the run rate back to reasonable 8.33 per over. Mohammed was impressive in his initial two-over spell and was rewarded for tight bowling when Haddin tried to hit him over mid-off but got an edge that Kohli collected at point.
Kallis and Gambhir batted with patience against the slower bowlers and unleashed when Khan was brought back in the 11th over. Gayle played a role in the field as well, taking the catch that sent Kallis on his way. Vettori bowled a shorter one which Kallis drove on the up towards extra cover where Gayle dived to his left and plucked the ball out of the sky.
Pathan, batting at four, allowed himself five balls to settle before depositing a Mohammed delivery over long-on. After Gambhir was caught by Dilshan at extra cover, Pathan unleashed. He destroyed Aravind, pulling the short one for four, smashing the full one for six and dispatching the low full toss to the boundary.
The quicks redeemed themselves a bit with Khan bowling a decent last over, mixing up slower balls and yorkers, and Aravind claiming the wicket of Pathan, who was trying to force the ball over long off but only got it as far as Kohli.