(The Times Of India)
The success of Chris Gayle and Royal Challengers Bangalore went hand in hand on yet another occasion. But the home side’s convincing eight-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings, which made them table-toppers in IPL 4 league stage, was not about Gayle magic alone.
The hard-hitting Jamaican scored his third half-century of the IPL edition, embellishing his unbeaten 75-run knock (50b) with six sixes and four boundaries but Chennai’s agony was planted and watered way before, thanks to an impressive RCB bowling.
Even a blazing 40-ball 70 by CSK skipper MS Dhoni couldn’t stop RCB from ensuring a straight tilt at the title clash in the playoff phase and also an assured spot in the next Champions League T20.
RCB skipper Daniel Vettori and pace ace Zaheer Khan returned to the eleven and more importantly made their presence felt to restrict the defending champions to 128/8 on a good batting track.
Three of the four CSK batsmen at the top of the tree gifted their wickets with loose strokes even as the discipline and attitude shown by Zaheer (2-19), Vettori (2-14) and S Arvind (2-20) ensured persistent pressure on the opponents.
Defending a small total, Dhoni tried the spin of R Ashwin first-up against Gayle and even placed an unorthodox straighter mid-on for the West Indian southpaw against pacers but couldn’t halt the juggernaut.
After the one-match break, Zaheer looked fresher “physically, mentally and technically” as was mentioned by coach Ray Jennings on the eve of the match and the left-arm pacer struck rhythm right from the first ball.
The pace spearhead removed the in-form duo of opener Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina in successive overs during an inspirational first spell (3-1-10-2).
In between those strikes, RCB nudged ahead in the contest with the other left-arm pacer Arvind accounting for Murali Vijay in the fourth over.
By the sixth over, the CSK innings read a sorry 23/4 after Chennai’s regular saviour S Badrinath perished at long-off in Vettori’s first over. But RCB couldn’t afford to relax, particularly after throwing away the advantage of a similar good start against Kings XI Punjab in their previous encounter.
The responsibility to resurrect the CSK innings was thrust on skipper Dhoni, not for the first time in the season. After splicing up a 42-run stand in company of Wriddhiman Saha for the fifth wicket, Dhoni reserved his best for last with yet another display of impeccable power-hitting.
The right-hander bludgeoned six of the seven sixes that spotted the CSK total, all big hits coming in the concluding half of the innings.
His penchant for the on-side while executing those maximums was noticeable but more noteworthy was the raw power he generated with the bat-swing.