(The Times Of India)
Chris Gayle scripted yet another victory of Royal Challengers Bangalore with an unbeaten 70-run knock as they spanked Rajasthan Royals by nine wickets to jump to the second spot in the Indian Premier League on Wednesday.
Chasing a modest 147, Bangalore coasted to win with three overs to spare and spoiled Shane Warne’s last game at home as the Australian will retire from the league after this season.
Tillakaratne Dilshan though made his last outing at the IPL 4 memorable as he scored a quickfire 38 to contribute in his side’s easy win while stand-in skipper Virat Kohli scored an unbeaten 39.
Rajasthan frittered away a good start to settle for a modest 146 for six after being invited to bat with opener Rahul Dravid (37) top-scoring for them.
Bangalore now have 15 points from 11 matches while Rajasthan’s playoff hopes have dipped as they will have to win remaining two matches and hope that some other results go in their favour. They remain at fifth spot despite defeat.
Kohli led Bangalore in the absence of injured Daniel Vettori and the 22-year-old Indian became the youngest captain to lead an IPL side.
It was Bangalore’s sixth win in a row while Rajasthan suffered their third straight defeat.
Gayle was dropped by Warne when he was in 13 but did not give them any chance after that as he smashed 10 boundaries, including four sixes in his 44-ball stay at the crease.
When the Bangalore chase started, all the eyes were on Gayle because of his scorching form but it was Dilshan who stole the thunder initially by hitting a flurry of boundaries.
He did not spare any bowler as he hit Shane Watson in the opening over for two fours and extracted boundaries at will when Johan Botha and Pankaj Singh were operating.
Warne committed a blunder by dropping Gayle off Botha when the Caribbean was on 13, making his own job tougher.
Dilshan on the other end continued to punish the bowlers as he creamed Siddharth Trivedi for two more fours as Bangalore raced to fifty in just five overs.
Gayle, who was playing second fiddle by then, lofted Botha for a six to make his presence felt but Dilshan fell to Warne while attempting a six in the mid-wicket region.
Gayle was not his usual aggressive self but was still scoring at a fast pace, running hard between the wickets along with Kohli and finding a boundary here and there.
But soon the scene changed as the left-hander from the West Indies hit Botha for a six to raise his fifty and then made Warne repent for his dropped catch by launching him for a six over long-off and followed it with a four.
Kohli too was playing confidently from the other end and ended the match with a four and six off Pankaj Singh. His 39 came off 34 balls.
Earlier, Rajasthan were off to a decent start with Dravid and Watson sharing 73 runs but Bangalore dominated the proceedings after left-arm paceman Sreenath Aravind consumed both the openers in the 10th over.
Scoring rate suffered after the double blow as the middle-order failed to carry on the good work and the biggest disappointment was Ross Taylor (13), who yet again failed to make any significant contribution.
Aravind (3/34) was the most successful bowler with three wickets, though he was not successful initially.
At the start, Watson found two boundaries off Aravind and Dravid hit his trademark elegant drives off Zaheer Khan and Charl Langeveldt as Bangalore reached 43 for no loss after six overs after being invited to bat.
Conditions were good batting as the ball was nicely coming on to the bat and both the openers started to play more freely with Watson launching Aravind for a huge six.
The openers were targetting Aravind a lot and in the process both of them fell in the left-arm paceman’s third over, 10th of the innings.
First to go was Watson, whose powerful hit landed straight in the hands of AB de Villers at long-off and two balls later, Dravid hit one back to the bowler.
Two new batsmen — Botha and Rahane — were at the crease and it affected the run-rate. Kohli himself bowled three overs and was pretty successful, conceding just 17 runs.
As if dipping run-rate was not enough, Rahane was run out just after hitting Abrar Kazi for a six because of a terrible mix-up with Botha.
Botha reverse-swept Kazi and set out for a single which was not there and Rahane sacrificed his wicket.
Taylor took some time to settle and meanwhile Botha too perished before doing anything significant as Aravind returned to claim his third victim, this time caught behind.
Taylor and Ashok Menaria (8) departed while attempting big shots and eventually, the hosts failed to put up a challenging target.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (Capt.), Shane Watson, Rahul Dravid, Johan Botha, Ashok Menaria, Ross Taylor, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Raut, Dishant Yagnik (wk), Siddharth Trivedi and Pankaj Singh.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers, KB Arun Karthik (wk), Mohammed Kaif, Saurabh Tiwary, Abrar Kazi, Zaheer Khan, Sreenath Aravind and Charl Langeveldt.