The Dharamsala sky cracked with lightning and thunder but the real storm was witnessed from the bats of Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh. Gilchrist rolled back the years to produce a delightfully aggressive century and Marsh unfurled a gem of his own as the pair constructed the highest partnership in a Twenty20 game, 206 runs, to charge Kings XI Punjab to a massive 232 for 2. It will take some getting, even by a team that includes that man Chris Gayle.
There are many big-hitting batsmen but most of them tend to club, bludgeon, tonk, heave and thump. Gilchrist, though, rarely plays an "ugly" shot. He makes eye-pleasing classical arcs with the bat and tonight was no different. Marsh captured the mood best: "It was a privilege to watch it from the other end," Marsh said.
Gilchrist didn't start flowing until the seventh over, preferring to let Paul Valthaty play the role of aggressor. Gilchrist was on 2 off 9 deliveries, and Punjab on 30 for 1, when a short ball from Abhimanyu Mithun helped him kickstart his flashback. He swivelled to pull the white ball over the midwicket boundary to signal the beginning of the carnage. He then turned his attention to S Aravind, who had given only a solitary run from seven deliveries. He charged down the track to lift one over long-off and crashed another to the straight boundary. With Marsh collecting a six and a four, S Aravind leaked 21 runs in that eight over. The floodgates were well and truly open.
Virat Kohli tried to the check the Gilchrist flood with the spin of Gayle. No luck, though, as he was clubbed for two huge sixes. It was in the 10th over, bowled by Charl Langeveldt, that Gilchrist really stepped up the violence in some style. He played the conventional and the short-arm pull to collect two sixes before he produced the longest six (122 meters) to complete the hat-trick. It was a knuckle-ball from Langeveldt but Gilchrist read it early and swung it way beyond the midwicket boundary. Langeveldt winced, Kohli stared into distance and the Punjab camp was agog with utter delight.
Bangalore's woes, though, were only to escalate from that moment as Marsh decided to weigh in with his own brand of aggression. He stamped his presence in the 15th over, looting 30 runs off Johan van der Wath. It went for 6 6 4 4 4 6, as Marsh launched a stunning assault. Three fours sped to the extra-cover boundary, one six flew over midwicket, another sailed over long-off and the final six disappeared over the straight boundary.
By the end it was difficult to keep count of the sixes as the scorecard kept racing ahead as though it was on steroids.