A clinical batting display from Royal Challengers Bangalore’s top three handed them a comfortable nine-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Monday (May 16). The win helped Bangalore climb to the fifth spot and keep their chances of making the playoffs alive.

Set a target of 184, Virat Kohli once again led from the front with an unbeaten 51-ball 75 sharing 71 and 115-run stands with Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers (59 not out) respectively to bat Knight Riders out of the game. Bangalore eventually crossed the line with eight balls to spare after Kolkata did well to post 183 for 5 on the back of half-centuries from Gautam Gambhir (51) and Manish Pandey (50).

Kohli, with the kind of from he has been in, gave you the impression of a magician who used his bat like a wand. But it wasn’t just one-way traffic from the Royal Challengers captain. Chris Gayle (49 off 31), determined to put his poor form behind, gave the visitors the perfect launchpad for a lift-off.

Kolkata managed to peg Gayle down for eight deliveries before the left-hander teed off with consecutive boundaries off Morne Morkel in the second over of the innings. He then hammered two back-to-back sixes in the next over off Andre Russell to propel the side in the powerplay.

When Gayle eventually fell, trapped by Sunil Narine in the eighth over, Bangalore had 76 runs on the board. With de Villiers walking in, there was no respite for the bowlers. Fresh from an unbeaten 229-run stand that demolished Gujarat Lions, both Kohli and de Villiers continued from where they left off. The running between the wickets goes up a notch when these two are out there in the middle and today was no different. That, combined with timely boundaries meant Bangalore needed 49 in the last five overs.

Kohli, however, did give Kolkata a chance in the 11th over. Trying to cut a wide one from Shakib al Hasan, he picked Gambhir at backward point with precision – only to be dropped. There was no returning from there for the hosts as Kohli cantered to his half-century off 37 balls and in the process, surpassed the 700-run mark in this edition in front of a crowd that turned the atmosphere to resemble that at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.

While in the field though, Kohli seemed to have injured split the webbing between his thumb and index finger on the left hand. After his match-winning knock and seeing his side through, he was chauffeured to a close by hospital in an ambulance to get it looked at.

Earlier, Kolkata lost Robin Uthappa (2) in the third over but recovered beautifully to cruise to 87 for 1 at the halfway mark. Gambhir and Pandey rebuilt for the hosts with some pleasing strokes though there was some uncertain running between the two; their collaboration fetched Knight Riders 76 runs in 8.1 overs. While the drives, flicks and cuts flew from both blades, what stood out in the partnership was their ability to pick the gaps. It wasn’t slam-bang cricket but a beautifully-constructed stand that was built carefully with singles and twos.

The platform was set for acceleration in the end, but Bangalore’s spinners pulled things back magnificently between overs 11 and 16 picking up four wickets for just 35 runs. The lean patch, considering the second-wicket stand, started when Gambhir was run out after a terrible mix-up in the 11th over that saw both scampering to the striker’s end but not before the Kolkata captain had accumulated 51 off 34. Pandey fell after a 23-run stand with Yusuf Pathan after reaching his fifty off 34 balls.

The track offered assistance for the spinners and the Royal Challengers tweakers made most of it and sucked the momentum out of Kolkata’s innings after a solid start. The brief slump, where the hosts slipped from 90 for 1 to 125 for 5, meant the onus was on Russell (39 not out off 19) and Shakib (18 off 11).

Russell’s blitz gave them the much-needed impetus at the end of the innings. However, it was sensible death bowling from Chris Jordan and Shane Watson that kept the Knight Riders under the 200-run mark. The plan from the pacer was pretty simple – force the duo to hit towards the longer boundary.

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