By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
The ‘Universe Boss’ is back with a bang. Playing his first match, Chris Gayle made an instant impact to change the fortunes of Kings XI Punjab at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday. Gayle smashed a scintillating 53 in his typical style to propel Kings XI Punjab to a thrilling eight-wicket victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Dream11 Indian Premier League.
Although Kings XI Punjab were struggling and lying at the bottom of the table, they recorded second successive win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 13th edition. And in both the games, skipper KL Rahul led from the front and guided his team to victory to earn man-of-the-match awards. In the first leg in Dubai on September 24, the Punjab-based franchise handed the RCB a 97-run drubbing. Rahul’s record-breaking innings of 132 not out was the highlight.
On Thursday, while chasing a tricky target of 172, KXIP were off to a flying start. The in-form opening pair of Rahul and Mayank Agarwal added 78 runs for the first wicket in just eight overs. Agarwal crashed a swift 45 in just 25 balls laced with four boundaries and three sixes to provide a strong platform.
Rahul then took the onus on him and in the company of Gayle marched towards the much-needed win. Both the batsmen played authoritatively and never looked like in any kind of trouble. Despite turning up for the first time, Gayle batted as if he was playing from the beginning of the season.
After surviving a close leg-before decision through DRS review, Gayle went berserk. He blasted five sixes and a four during his 45-ball knock of 53 runs. After in total control of the situation, KXIP took it rather casually in the last two overs. The move almost backfired as Yuzvendra Chahal bowled a fantastic 20th over.
Needing just two runs in the last over, Chahal bowled two dot balls and then Gayle played a lofted shot to the long-on. There were two runs for asking but for everyone’s surprise, Rahul and Gayle preferred a single. Next ball, Rahul played a dot which increased the pressure. While trying to run a single to close the match Gayle was caught way short of his crease.
With tension mounting in the KXIP camp, Nicholas Pooran was sent when a run was needed in one ball. Luckily for KXIP, Pooran’s lofted six just went over the outstretched hands of Chris Morris and landed just outside the long-on boundary, much to the relief of his teammates and co-owner Preity Zinta. Rahul remained unbeaten on 61 off 49 balls which comprised five sixes and a solitary four.
Earlier, a sparkling late onslaught by Chris Morris and steady batting performance by Virat Kohli steered Royal Challengers Bangalore to a competitive 171 for 6. RCB batsmen justified their captain’s decision to bat with sensible display. Aaron Finch (20) and Devdutt Padikkal (18) gave a flying start.
However after a bright start, RCB were then strangled by spin, with leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin (2 for 23) being the wrecker-in-chief. After conceding a four of the previous ball, Ashwin bowled a superb leg-spinning delivery to disturb the furniture of Finch.
Virat Kohli (48: 39 balls, 3×4) came in to bat in the fifth over and brilliantly anchored the RCB innings from then on. He did not go for the lofted shots and instead played the waiting game. RCB’s ploy of sending in young left-handers Washington Sundar and Shivam Dube ahead of last-match hero AB de Villiers to counter KXIP’s leg spinners blew up in their faces.
Mohammed Shami picked up both Kohli and De Villiers in the 18th over to give Kings XI Punjab an upper hand. However, Chris Morris, who remained unbeaten on 25, exploded in the last couple of overs to salvage the RCB innings and provide a better looking total in the end. Shami bowled the last over which proved quite expensive and damaged his bowling analysis. Morris scooped an attempted yorker for four to fine leg to bring 150 for RCB. Morris finished with 25 off 8 balls.
With the second win in eight matches, KXIP were still at the bottom with four points, while RCB logged 10 points from the same number of ties. On Friday, defending champions Mumbai Indians will square off against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Brief scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 171 for 6 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 48, Chris Morris 25 not out, Shivam Dube 23, Aaron Finch 20, Devdutt Padikkal 18, Washington Sundar 13, Isuru Udana 10 not out; Murugan Ashwin 2-23, Mohammed Shami 2-45, Arshdeep Singh 1-20, Chris Jordan 1-20) lost to Kings XI Punjab 177 for 2 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 61 not out, Chris Gayle 53, Mayank Agarwal 45, Nicholas Pooran 6 not out; Yuzvendra Chahal 1-35) by 8 wickets. Man-of-the-match: KL Rahul (RCB).