Chris Gayle can shatter dreams. Ask Ishwar Pandey, the highest wicket-taker in this year's Ranji Trophy, who got smashed for 21 in his first over this IPL. Ask Mitchell Marsh, whose decent run with the ball this tournament was blown out of his memory, with his first over going for 28. Ask Aaron Finch, the third captain for Pune Warriors this season, who bowled an over hoping to restrict Gayle but didn't bowl again after being blasted for 29. Ask Ali Murtaza, a specialist left-arm spinner thrown into the deep end in his first game this season, only to be hammered for 45 in two overs.
The fastest hundred in T20 history was built on the misery of others, most notably a struggling franchise whose owners - they spent US$370 million to buy it - watched shell-shocked at their team's bowlers being taken apart with a ruthlessness only a game of Cricket '97 powered with cheat codes could have matched. After Gayle's onslaught, there was only going to be one result, and further confirmation of that arrived when four wickets fell inside the first six overs of the Warriors chase. Their defeat was the second-biggest in terms of runs in the IPL's six seasons.
The destruction inflicted on the Warriors bowlers broke a series of records. Gayle smashed the fastest century in the format, brought off 30 balls; made the highest individual T20 score (175 not out); struck the most sixes by a batsman in a T20 innings (17); helped Royal Challengers Bangalore hit the most sixes for a team in a T20 innings (21) and reach the highest total in T20 cricket (263).
The helplessness of the Warriors players was writ large on their faces. Luke Wright smiled with trepidation when Virat Kohli took a single to give Gayle the strike off his bowling, Yuvraj just shook his head as he watched one ball after another sail over the boundary rope and pretended to snatch Gayle's bat at the end of the innings as he went over to congratulate him.
The only interruption to Gayle's effort was a 33-minute rain interval. He had warmed up before that with two boundaries off Pandey, and proceeded to smack him for three more in the same over after the rain relented. Unlike some of his innings this season where he was relatively restrained at the start, he came out prepared to attack from the outset today. His previous innings, against Rajasthan Royals, was an unbeaten 49 off 44 balls during which he batted 17.5 overs.
It helped Gayle that Warriors bowled to him on a length, allowing him to hit through the line and straight, with minimum effort that masked the immense power behind his strokes that cleared the boundary with ease. Only one boundary out of the 30 to his name qualified as a mis-hit, an outside edge past short third man. At least two shots cleared the roof, the shot that brought up his century hit it and rebounded back into the lower tiers.
That Gayle was not going to hold himself back, having taken 29 off the fifth over from Marsh, was evident in his approach to spin when Murtaza was brought on in the seventh over. Gayle decided to target the spinner with the turn, slog-sweeping and then smashing him flat for two sixes, then making Finch regret the move to bring himself on, hammering him for four sixes, all on the on-side. A rare yorker outside off from Ashok Dinda that Gayle missed was perhaps the only moral victory he afforded Warriors before reaching his century, a landmark he celebrated with a punch of the gloves then kneeling down and raising his arms.
Murtaza may just have felt he could slip in a relatively quiet over when Gayle had mellowed down, somewhat, after reaching his ton, but Gayle demolished those thoughts. He punished Murtaza for three more sixes in a 28-run over, as Royal Challengers began another phase of domination in their innings after a moment's breather - the last six overs produced 85 runs.
Gayle's innings was supported ably by opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was part of a 167-run opening stand, an IPL record, during which he only made 33. He quickly ceded floor to Gayle and played some attractive, text-book shots through point and down the ground. Unlike Dilshan at the start, AB de Villiers was the dominant partner in Warriors' ruin at the death, thrashing 31 in just eight balls in a stand worth 44.
Each played their role in helping Gayle guide the innings, which he did with a big smile, good-hearted banter with the Warriors fielders during the carnage, and an animated reaction when he reached his century. He signed off in the match with a gangnam style gig at picking up two wickets in the only over he bowled - all a contrast to the man who made his first international appearance against India in Toronto in 1999, when it seemed hard to imagine a debutant as shy as him would one day become one of the most colourful characters on a cricket field.