Skipper Gautam Gambhir smashed his way to a blistering 44-ball 75, while Jacques Kallis struck his third consecutive fifty, as Kolkata Knight Riders drubbed Rajasthan Royals by nine wickets in their Indian Premier League (IPL) match on Friday.
Chasing 160 to register their second win of the league after electing to field, Gambhir along with Kallis (80 off 65 balls) added 152 runs for the second wicket — a league record — to overhaul the target with nine balls to spare.
Gambhir struck 11 boundaries and a six while Kallis’ knock was laced with seven hits to the fence and two over it.
Manvinder Bisla was run out early into the Kolkata innings but that was the only time Rajasthan tasted success.
Having watched Kallis hit three boundaries and a six in double quick time, Gambhir got into the act, sending Nayan Doshi high over long-on boundary for the maximum.
There was no looking back after that as the India left-hander smashed rookie Amit Singh for four boundaries in the sixth over.
There was no respite for even the great Shane Warne as Gambhir swept and employed the cut against him with ease.
The story was similar with Johan Botha. Kallis found the ropes on regular intervals to make his presence felt, but all in all, it was a Gambhir show.
The ones pitched up were driven through the packed off-side field, the ones on the pads were dealt with delicate glances and flicks, the short deliveries were pulled and the cut shots were also in view during his whirlwind knock.
Earlier, Ross Taylor played a cameo as Rajasthan finished at 159 for four.
Taylor, who smashed 35 off 25 deliveries with the help of two sixes and two fours, was well supported by Shane Watson (22 off 13). Watson’s 13-ball 22 too, featured two sixes.
Put into bat by Kolkata skipper Gautam Gambhir, Rajasthan were off to a slow start as openers Rahul Dravid and Amit Paunikar struggled to get off the blocks against an attack, bolstered by the return of Australian pace spearhead Brett Lee, at the Sawai Mansingh stadium.
Gambhir’s ploy to introduce Shakib Al Hasan early worked as the Bangladeshi left-arm spinner accounted for Paunikar who, while trying to hit against the turn, found Jacques Kallis at short third man.
A front-foot pulled four off Lakshimipathy Balaji in the day’s second over followed by another boundary against Kallis, were the only highlights of Paunikar’s brief stay at the crease.
One youngster gave way to another as Ashok Menaria joined Dravid at 26/1 in the fifth over.
Menaria’s arrival provided the much-needed impetus to Rajasthan innings as the gifted right-hander, along with his senior partner, put on 52 runs for the second wicket in exactly seven overs, till Yusuf Pathan disturbed Dravid’s stumps.
Both Dravid and Menaria played some effective shots during their association, with the later lofting Iqbal Abdullah for a six over deep midwicket.
Dravid’s departure brought to the crease the in-form Shane Watson but before he could settle down, Menaria offered a return catch to give Pathan his second wicket.
From there on, it was upto Watson and Ross Taylor to guide Rajasthan to a challenging score.
Watson, on a high after his superhuman effort of 185 against Bangladesh a few days back, signalled his intention when he slammed Shakib straight down the ground for the maximum.
Taylor followed suit as he pulled a short Balaji delivery over deep square leg to step up the tempo. Soon a full toss arrived, and it was treated with disdain as the hard-hitting New Zealander whacked it over the gap between deep square leg and deep midwicket, giving the fielders no chance.
Watson then took Shakib to the cleaners, hitting him for a six over deep midwicket for a six, before the slow left-armer had him bowled to have the last laugh.