Chris Gayle's blazing form in the Indian Premier League continued as he butchered the Chennai Super Kings bowlers to score an unbeaten 75 off 50 balls to guide Royal Challengers Bangalore to a comprehensive eight-wicket win here on Sunday.
The win put RCB on top of the table with 19 points and more importantly gives them a match more to reach the final in case they lose the first play-offs.
Restricting CSK to a modest 128 for eight, RCB, who finished their league engagements with nine wins and a draw (no result), sauntered home with 12-balls to spare.
Gayle was in imperious form again. But unlike in the earlier matches when he swung his bat at everything that was flung at him, the towering Jamaican was watchful, smashing the ball only when the bowlers begged to be punished. He picked Dougie Bollinger and Suresh Raina for punishment, smashing them for effortless sixes at the start of the innings.
The lanky Jamaican struck six sixes and four fours during his 50-ball mayhem, taking his aggregate to 511 runs in only nine innings. He is now the proud owner of the Orange Cap surpassing Shaun Marsh who had aggregated 504 runs.
It wasn't just Gayle all the way. Virat Kohli batted with maturity, defending when the bowlers demanded him to use soft hands, hitting out when they either over-pitched or bowled short.
If RCB had lost AB de Villiers to the third ball of their innings, Kohli ensured that his side was firmly in the saddle, playing the supporting role to Gayle to a nicety.
Kohli made 31 before clipping Albie Morkel into the hands of Ravichandran Ashwin. With barely 48 needed in 60 balls with nine wickets in hand, RCB made the remainder of the target without much fuss. Saurabh Tiwary remained unbeaten with 13 while posting 49-runs for the unbroken third wicket.
Earlier, put in to bat by Daniel Vettori, CSK lost wickets at regular intervals throughout their innings, and reached 128 for eight in their 20 overs thanks entirely to MS Dhoni, who smashed three fours and six towering sixes in his unbeaten 40-ball knock of 70.
Dhoni was particularly severe on young paceman Abhimanyu Mithun, who conceded 17 runs in the final over of the innings and was clobbered for 35 runs in his four overs even as the rest of the RCB attack was discipline personified.
Zaheer Khan, back in the side like Vettori, finished with excellent figures of two for 19, Vettori himself took two for 14 and impressive left-arm medium-pacer Sreenath Arvind returned with two for 20 to ensure that the defending champions did not get away to a massive score.
Zaheer began the slide in the third over, inducing a loose drive from Mike Hussey on to his stumps. It triggered a dramatic rot as the Super Kings subsided to 23 for four at the end of the Powerplay, their top-order blown away through a combination of disciplined bowling and poor shot-selection.
The first pocket of resistance was provided by Wriddhiman Saha (22, 30 balls, 1x4, 1x6) and Dhoni, who added 42 for the fifth wicket in 47 deliveries, but with Dwayne Bravo and Albie Morkel failing to contribute significantly lower down, it was entirely up to Dhoni to do the scoring.
The Indian captain began cautiously, but once he got his eye in, he treated a packed gathering to a feast of strokeplay. He first picked off Chris Gayle for two sixes, but saved his best for Mithun to give his bowlers something of a target to defend in the battle for the top slot.