Eden Gardens switched its loyalty to the brilliance of Virat Kohli as the Royal Challengers Bangalore captain anchored the visiting team to an emphatic nine-wicket win over host Kolkata Knight Riders here on Monday.
Chasing 184 set by the host, RCB overhauled the target with eight balls to spare and moved into the fifth position of the league standings netting 12 points from as many matches.
The chants of “Virat…Virat” engulfed the giant stadium, which was almost packed to the capacity anticipating a close contest between two of the most accomplished opponents in the tournament.
The loyalty of the support finally swung towards one of the most proficient batsman in the world who arrived here with a stupendous 677 runs in 11 innings.
Batting with an injury he suffered on the left hand while making an acrobatic save during KKR’s batting innings, Kohli impressed with his unflinching spirit to score an unbeaten 75 (51b, 5x4, 3x6) hoist 752 in 12 innings.
This helped him surpass the previous highest aggregate in a season set by his current teammate Chris Gayle and Michael Hussey, who owned the record so far with 733 runs scored in 2012 and 2013 seasons respectively.
Picking up from where they had left of in the 144-run win over Gujarat Lions at Bengaluru barely two days ago, Kohli inspired another great batting display joining South African batsman A.B. de Villiers. The two figured in an unbeaten 115-runs (in 68 balls) partnership that made the run chase on a challenging Eden wicket look all too easy in the end.
Chris Gayle shrugged off his recent poor form to give an explosive start, where he hit four sixes and four boundaries to reach his 49 (31 balls).
After Gayle got out in the eighth over, Kohli and De Villiers took over unleashing their usual belligerence to and put up their fifth 100-run stand in the tournament. De Villiers provided the perfect foil with an unbeaten 59 (31b, 5x4, 3x6).
For Kohli the only moment of slackness happened in the 11th over bowled by Bangladesh left-arm spinner Shakib al-Hasan, when Gambhir spilled a catch fielding at point as the RCB captain unleashed a hard square cut. From there on it was RCB all the way.
Earlier, KKR sailed on the half centuries by Gambhir and Manish Pandey to set a strong 183 for five in the allotted 20 overs. Kohli opted to field on winning the toss and put the challenge on Gambhir, who had always preferred to chase targets. Gambhir and Pandey figured in a 76-run partnership for the second wicket after opener Robin Uthappa departed in a hurry.
Pandey kept the home fans mostly on the feet hitting five boundaries and two sixes even as Gambhir gave an company matching his younger partner stroke by stroke. The KKR batting suffered regular jolts after the departure of Gambhir and Pandey before West Indian Andre Russell (39 not out) provided some rear-guard action in company of Shakib Al Hasan (18 not out).
The duo’s unbeaten 58-run partnership for the sixth wicket saw KKR crossing 180.