Gayle blitz, Chahal guile reinvigorate RCB
Royal Challengers Bangalore 213 for 2 (Gayle 77, Kohli 64, Jadhav 38*) beat Gujarat Lions 192 for 7 (McCullum 72, Kishan 39, Raina 23, Chahal 3-31) by 21 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Chris Gayle hadn't made a half-century in 17 T20 innings. His strike rate among openers who had faced a minimum of 50 deliveries prior to this game was the slowest. On Tuesday, a spot opened up after AB de Villiers' late pull-out because of an injury. It meant IPL's most successful opening partnership of Virat Kohli and Gayle were reunited again. With the side desperately needing fresh energy to revive a stalled campaign, Gayle, who became the first batsman to score 10,000 T20 runs, unleashed mayhem - striking 77 off 38 balls - as Royal Challengers posted 213 for 2, the season's highest total, on a slow Rajkot deck.
Then Brendon McCullum came up with an astonishing display of six-hitting in a 44-ball 72 that should have been enough to give Lions victory on most nights. But conceding 35 off the last two overs with the ball - a majority of those plundered by Kedar Jadhav in his unbeaten 16-ball 38 - proved to be the difference as Royal Challengers won by 21 runs and arrested a three-match losing streak to lift themselves off the bottom of the points table.
RCB start steadily
As early as the fifth over, midwicket was in business at least twice, trying to dive forward to try and catch a mistimed flick. On both occasions, the ball skewed off the top part of Kohli's bat. These were early indications that the ball was gripping, which Dhawal Kulkarni, Basil Thampi and Andrew Tye exploited well early on. Lions conceded just 36 in the first five overs, with Gayle and Kohli far from set.
Gayle storm unleashed
The template was set: bowl slower through the air and get the batsmen to force the pace. Royal Challengers had two left-handers in the top six. Gayle is a slow starter against spin and on a slow surface where shot-making wasn't as easy as he later made it out to be, he had to content with Ravindra Jadeja as early as the sixth over.
Jadeja started off by conceding just nine, but deviated from the template in his next over by bowling full, fast and straight. It was the fodder Gayle needed to swing through cleanly: he muscled two fours and two sixes in a 21-run over. One of those sixes could've been out had Brendon McCullum's hat not been in contact with the rope as he flung himself across to take a catch at wide long-off. Gayle raced to a 23-ball 50 courtesy three fours and five monstrous sixes to turn a steady start into a spectacular one.
Kohli, the accumulator
Kohli's timing seemed off initially. This was no surface to punch through the line, so he tried to charge down the pitch and was beaten in trying to hit out. But the three successive boundaries he hit off Dhawal Kulkarni in the third over - to full deliveries - got him going.
Having watched Gayle return to form, Kohli took over after Thampi ended a 122-run opening stand in the 13th over. Signs of recovery from a shoulder injury were evident as he swiveled and pulled without discomfort to bring up a half-century. It helped that Travis Head, replacing Samuel Badree, didn't take long to settle in and finished with a 16-ball 30 not out. Kohli eventually fell to a slower delivery for 64, attempting a heave on the leg side.
Jadhav thrives in finishers' role
Kedar Jadhav showed how much his T20 game has improved since the 2016 season, where he played just four games. His anticipation, particularly to Tye's slower deliveries and Jadeja's darts, were particularly impressive. He hit two sixes and four fours in the last two overs, in which Royal Challengers smashed 35. The final over that went for 17 resulted in Jadeja finishing with 4-0-57-0, his most-expensive T20 figures.
Negi's flight, McCullum's fury
Royal Challengers started with spin and had Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina out early inside four overs. Left with no choice but to play just one way, McCullum found his hitting range against in Pawan Negi's second over. He raced to a 30-ball 50, but the pressure brought on by dot balls resulted in the wickets of Aaron Finch and Dinesh Karthik in the space of eight deliveries to set Lions back. Negi continued to trust his weapon - flight - and deceived Finch as Jadhav effected a smart stumping. He followed that up by conceding just one in his next over - to leave Lions needing 107 off eight overs. Under the circumstances, Negi's figures of 4-0-21-1 were gold.
Chahal's guile seals it
With McCullum repeatedly favouring the leg side, Chahal threw the ball up outside off and induced a slog sweep that was pouched at deep square leg in his last over. The timing of that wicket - with Lions needing 77 off 32 balls - was significant given Shane Watson and Adam Milne's five overs had cost 63. With Negi bowled out, Kohli had to turn to one of them or S Aravind in the end-overs. McCullum's wicket, however, took the fizz out of the chase. By making 39 off just 16 balls, Ishan Kishan made his case to be promoted, perhaps even as opener in place of Dwayne Smith, once Dwayne Bravo returns from injury.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo