KOLKATA: Chris Gayle and Lokesh Rahul smashed half-centuries as Kings XI Punjab went to the top of the Indian Premier League after routing Kolkata Knight Riders by nine wickets on Saturday.
In Bangalore, AB de Villiers singlehandedly lifted Royal Challengers Bangalore from the bottom of the table with a ruthless unbeaten 90 off just 30 balls to beat Delhi Daredevils by six wickets.
Gayle hit an unbeaten 62 off 38 balls and Rahul made 60 off just 27 deliveries as Punjab reached a winning 126-1 with 11 balls to spare at Eden Gardens.
Punjab’s target was revised to 125 in 13 overs after rain stopped play for nearly 90 minutes.
Before rain intervened, Gayle and Rahul carried Punjab to 96-0 off just 8.2 overs after Kolkata, put into bat, was restricted to 191-7.
Punjab leads the table with four wins from five matches, while Kolkata has three from six.
Gayle is making IPL franchises regret not picking him in the opening rounds of auction in February with consecutive astonishing knocks of 63, 104 not out and 62 not out.
He is just two runs behind his former Bangalore captain Virat Kohli’s tally of 231 runs this season.
“To be honest, I didn’t strike it really well, but when you have momentum going, you need to capitalize,” Gayle said.
Rahul smashed nine fours and two sixes before he top-edged a pull off Sunil Narine with Punjab needing just nine more runs.
Gayle raised the victory in style with his sixth six of the innings by smashing Tom Curran over the long-on boundary.
Gayle also hit five fours in his electrifying display of power hitting.
“Me and Chris have spoken ? we’re gonna back our games. If he’s going for it, doesn’t mean I take the back seat,” Rahul said. “The approach is to stay aggressive and take the opposition down.”
Earlier, Kolkata stumbled once it lost top scorer Chris Lynn (74) in the 16th over to medium fast bowler Andrew Tye (2-30).
Kolkata could score only 45 in the last five overs and big hitter Andre Russell departed for just 10.
“We don’t plan for wickets, we plan to make the batsmen uncomfortable and that forces the wicket,” Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin said.
De Villiers’ explosive half-century featured 10 fours and five huge sixes as Bangalore cruised to 176-4 in 18 overs to get a perfect tune up for its next three matches at home.
They were chasing Delhi’s 174-5, which featured Rishabh Pant (85) and Shreyas Iyer (52).
Pant hit seven sixes and six fours as Delhi enjoyed a fruitful last five overs by plundering 71 runs.
But de Villiers overshadowed Pant’s knock with his delightful sweeps, drives and pull shots.
Kohli scored a fighting 30 off 26 balls before he fell to a spectacular one-handed diving catch in the deep by Trent Boult.
“I was stunned when he took it, that’s a brilliant catch,” Kohli said. “That’s a catch, when you look back, you don’t feel bad about getting out.”
De Villiers finished off the match by hitting Boult for two successive boundaries as Bangalore recorded its second victory in the tournament from five games with two overs to spare.
“Some of those nights when I see the ball well, don’t last. But tonight it was nice and clear,” de Villiers said.
Delhi has only one win.
“Hopefully, we can turn it around when we get back home,” Delhi skipper Gautam Gambhir said. “It’s tough being on the road and losing, but that’s no excuse.”—AP