One hundred and thirty-two runs. That’s all Royal Challengers Bangalore needed. A little over 13 runs per wicket, only 6.6 runs an over, with Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in their side. Against quality pace bowling led by the astute Gautam Gambhir, the most glittering batting line-up in Twenty20 cricket sensationally collapsed to 49 all out, the lowest score in the IPL and the 10th-lowest in all Twenty20 cricket. Not one man reached double figures. This was only the 10th time in the IPL that a total of 131 or under was defended successfully.

At the halfway mark, Kolkata Knight Riders felt they were about 50 short of the par score, especially after the start Sunil Narine had given them: a 17-ball 34 in the fastest team fifty this IPL. They had collapsed from 65 for 1 to be bowled out only for the third time when batting first in IPL. That fall couldn’t hold a candle to Royal Challengers, though, who batted with their edges, starting with a golden duck for captain Kohli.

Nathan Coulter-Nile began the slide with the wickets of Kohli, AB de Villiers and Kedar Jadhav in his first three overs, and then Chris Woakes and Colin de Grandhomme feasted on the carcass, taking three wickets each. With Umesh Yadav taking the other wicket, this was the fifth time all 10 wickets had fallen to pace in the IPL.

Trini Posse

At the toss, Kohli said he expected the pitch to be a little tacky, and thus helpful to seam, after rain last night and a delayed start because of more rain. However, he opened with his trusted legspinner Samuel Badree, who has for long been one of the best T20 new-ball bowlers. Fellow Trinidadian, Narine, played him like a man who knows him inside out. Immediately he played him like a slow seam bowler angling the ball away from him as opposed to bringing it back in. 4, 4, 6, 4 in the first over, and Knight Riders had their most productive first over since 2013. Narine continuing punishing S Aravind, who had a decent Powerplay economy rate of 7.32, in the third over.

Mills, Binny strike

The Narine onslaught forced Kohli to bowl half of Tymal Mills’ quota in the first four overs. It also meant Kohli had to hold back his two other big bowlers, legspinners Badree and Yuzvendra Chahal. Mills responded, though, hitting Gambhir’s thumb on the way to Jadhav in the fourth over. A slower short ball from Stuart Binny in the sixth over accounted for Narine, who pulled and found deep square leg.

Legspinners come back

In the last match at Eden Gardens, Knight Riders posted 187, and lost with 10 balls to spare. They must have been under extra pressure now to get a total that was Gayle-Kohli-de-Villiers-proof, which is perhaps why they kept going after the legspinners. Badree and especially Chahal loved it. Robin Uthappa fell playing Badree across the line, Yusuf Pathan was stumped down the leg side off Chahal, de Grandhomme skipped out and edged Chahal to slip, and Manish Pandey flicked a Chahal full toss to midwicket. The real show, though, was yet to begin.

Pace like fire

Going into the chase, Royal Challengers might have thought of getting a big net run rate bonus here. Small ground, quick outfield, a paltry total to chase, with explosive batsmen in the shed, this was fertile ground for a quick finish and big momentum.

Gambhir, on the other hand, walked out like a desperate nothing-to-lose Tony Montana from Scarface. He had his helmet on, and he asked Royal Challengers to say hello to his little friend: raw pace and upright seam. A pumped-up Coulter-Nile began with a massive no-ball, but he hit Gayle on the shoulder on the free hit. And when Kohli faced first up, Gambhir had a second slip in place, which is where the edge to the outswinger went.

 At the other end, Umesh was cut straight to point by Mandeep Singh, who had moved ahead of de Villiers in the order. The strategy for de Villiers this season has been to give him no room, doing which Knight Riders conceded two early boundaries, but a sharp bouncer from Coulter-Nile drew the fatal top-edge on the hook from well outside off.

Towards the end of the fourth over, Gambhir was seen gesturing towards fine leg. He wanted one more from Coulter-Nile, who came back and accounted for Jadhav with the first ball of his third over. Gambhir also knew that Gayle was not enjoying the pace, and he kept peppering him with the pace of Umesh.

Gambhir then overlooked Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav, who many might have thought were the key now, with the score 39 for 4 after six overs and with Gayle on 7 off 15. He went to Woakes, who was not going to pitch anything in Gayle’s half, even if it meant bowling a wide. That wide out of the way, perhaps Gayle felt there would be no more short balls in the over, but Woakes still bounced him, handcuffing his attempt at a big shot, and having him caught at wide mid-off. The rest was just a procession.

Credit:@ESPNSTAFF