Kolkata Knight Riders kept their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals alive by comfortably beating Royal Challengers Bangalore by 9 wickets in a Champions League Twenty20 match at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Thursday.
Chasing a challenging target of 170, the KKR top-order batted beautifully to knock off the runs in only 17.3 overs.
The most heartening fact was skipper Gautam Gambhir's return to form as he clobbered the RCB bowlers to score an unbeaten 55 off 31 balls (3x4, 4x6) and added 109 runs with the ever-consistent Jacques Kallis for the undefeated second wicket. Kallis scored another fluent half century remaining undefeated on 64 in 47 balls with four boundaries and six.
Brad Haddin who played his first match blasted his way to a 27-ball 42 and released the initial pressure as Jacques Kallis also started playing shots at the other end.
Haddin was in a mood to spoil the party for young left-arm seamer Sreenath Aravind who was selected to play for India, was tonked for 19 runs in one over including two huge sixes and a four.
The duo added 62 runs in 7.1 overs before RCB skipper Daniel Vettori tossed one up and Haddin gave a simple catch to Virat Kohli in the covers.
In walked skipper Gautam Gambhir and looked far more determined than what he had looked in recent months. He concentrated hard, ran the singles and twos well and also hit a few crisp boundaries. Gambhir-Kallis added 50 runs in only 31 balls to lay the foundation of an impressive victory.
The best part was sixes that Gambhir hit. One was off Vettori over deep mid-wicket while the next one was straight over Dirk Nannes' head over long. Just to make a point he moved towards off-stump and lifted Nannes over deep fine leg to complete his 50 off 30 balls.
Earlier, a splendid rear guard action by skipper Daniel Vettori helped Royal Challengers Bangalore post a challenging 169 for nine.
Down in the dumps at 91 for six in the 14th over, Vettori launched a swift yet brutal counter attack on KKR bowlers in company of Bhatkal. The duo added 61 runs in only 5.2 overs as Gautam Gambhir's bowlers lost the plot at the death. The last six overs produced 75 runs for the RCB.
Vettori was out of the last delivery of the innings after smashing 44 off 23 balls with the help of two sixes and five fours. Bhatkal contributed useful 25 from 18 balls with help of two fours and six.
KKR captain Gambhir won the toss and elected to bowl. Brett Lee who has had a torrid time bowled a maiden first over to dashing Chris Gayle (25) while Sri Lankan captain Tillekratane Dilshan (18) was kept quiet at the other end.
However Gayle broke the shackles in the very next Lee over hitting him for two sixes. He hit another six but it was Jacques Kallis' perfect yorker that castled the former Windies skipper after the South African was hit for maximum a couple of deliveries earlier.
In the very next over, the dangerous Virat Kohli was out for a duck as Lee dug one short as the batsman chose to close the face of his bat. Rival skipper Gambhir didn't make any mistake at cover.
Saurabh Towary (18) during his brief stay hit a six off Kallis and four off Rajat Bhatia but was holed out in the deep trying to pull Yusuf Pathan.
Mayank Agarwal (13) and Mohammed Kaif (5) were dismissed by left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla who easily was the pick of the bowlers.