Kolkata: Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers continued their sparkling show with the bat to guide Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to a commanding nine-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and keep their playoff hopes alive in the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Chasing a challenging 184 for win on a turning Eden Gardens track, Chris Gayle returned to form to set up the chase with a 31-ball 49 (5x4s, 4x6s) before skipper Kohli and De Villiers posted half centuries each in a 115-run unbroken second wicket partnership off just 68 balls to take KKR comfortably home with eight balls to spare.
It was Kohli and De Villiers fifth hundred plus run stand this season.
Continuing his sensational batting form in this year’s IPL, Kohli posted an unbeaten 75 off 51 balls (5x4s, 3x6s) while De Villiers remained not out on 59 off 31 balls (5x4s, 3x6s) as the duo carried forward from where they left against Gujarat Lions in their last match.
Kohli, who batted with a split webbing on his left hand, completed his half century in 37 balls and also became the highest rungetter in an IPL season, surpassing Gayle’s 733 as RCB moved to fifth position in the standings with 12 points from as many matches to remain in the hunt.
Kohli never looked back after he was dropped at 32 by his counterpart Gautam Gambhir at point.
Opening the batting, Gayle crawled to one run from four balls before he took the charge with back-to-back fours off Morne Morkel. He was even better when he smacked fellow Jamaican Andre Russell for two successive sixes.
Gambhir was quick to introduce Sunil Narine into the attack in the fifth over but the result was no different as Gayle effortlessly cleared the boundaries with his brute force.
Gayle was beaten once during his quickfire innings when he failed to read the sharp away turn of Chawla but he bounced back quickly to whack the leg-spinner over long-on in what seemed a mis-hit but had enough power to clear the long-on rope.
Just when it looked, RCB will canter home with Gayle’s explosive innings umpire A Nand Kishore’s dubious lbw decision off Narine’s bowling denied him a well-deserved half-century.
At midway stage, RCB needed 93 with Gambhir deploying an all-spin attack but Kohli looked at ease as he along with De Villiers picked from where they had left in their record 229-run partnership against Gujarat Lions in the last match to seal an easy win.
RCB will next face Kings XI Punjab at home on May 1 and then travel to Raipur to face Delhi Daredevils on May 22. The Kohli-led side need to win both their remaining matches to seal a play-off berth.
KKR, on the other hand, still continue to hold the second spot with 14 points from 12 games. They next travel to Kanpur to face Gujarat Lions on May 19 and will conclude their league campaign against Sunrisers Hyderabad on May 22.
Earlier, captain Gambhir and Manish Pandey struck fine half centuries before Russell played a brisk 19-ball 39-run unbeaten knock towards the end to guide Kolkata Knight Riders to 183 for five.
Put into bat, KKR lost their first wicket in third over when Abdulla dismissed Robin Uthappa (2) cheaply.
But RCB’s weak link, their bowling attack failed to make further inroads as Gambhir (51 from 34 balls; 7x4s) and Pandey (50 from 35 balls; 5x4s, 2x6s) shared 76 runs off just 49 balls for the second wicket to brighten KKR’s prospect at the Eden Gardens.
Batting with amazing aggression and intent, Gambhir and Pandey notched up a fifty each.
While it was Gambhir’s fifth fifty this season and a record 31st in the tournament, Pandey registered his second half century.
But poor coordination in running between the wickets cost Gambhir his wicket as from being 87 for one at midway stage, KKR were reduced to 125 for five in 15.2 overs, losing four wickets within a span of 29 balls.
But before it could go worse, Russell stepped up the runrate with three sixes and two boundaries in an unbroken 58 run stand off 30 balls with Shakib Al Hasan (18 not out from 11 balls; 1×4, 1x6) to take KKR to a fighting total.
RCB skipper Kohli had an injury scare while attempting a catch in the 17th over when he appeared to have split the webbing of his left hand as he went off the field but only to return to the field soon.
Brief scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 183/5in 20 overs (Gautam Gambhir 51, Manish Pandey 50, Andre Russell 39 n.o; Sreenath Aravind 2/41) lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore 186/1 in 18.4 overs (Virat Kohli 75 n.o., AB De Villiers 59 n.o., Chris Gayle 49; Sunil Narine 1/34).