IPL 2018, KXIP vs SRH: Return of the King as Chris Gayle scores first IPL century in three years

April 20, 2018, Hyderabad

CricketIndian Premier League

Gayle goes ballistic
Rewind to the 2018 IPL auction three months ago, when ‘Da Boss’ fell on the brink of humiliation, only to be saved by the Kings XI Punjab co-owner Preity Zinta. As she raised the paddle at the last round of the auction, the entire hall broke into a huge round of applause. Chris Gayle went unsold in the first two rounds and his IPL career hung in a balance.

Amid the mayhem in Mohali on Thursday, Zinta’s afterthought felt like a tactical masterstroke. Gayle blazed to a 58-ball hundred, eventually remaining unbeaten on 104 off 63 deliveries. Against the strongest bowling attack of the tournament, he hit 11 sixes. At the end, even the battered and bruised Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers and fielders walked up to the ‘Universe Boss’ to applaud, notwithstanding the fact that Gayle’s 21st T20 hundred — the first century by any batsman in this IPL — had blown them away.

It seems, Gayle is letting out his anger caused by a hurt ego. The uncertainties at the auction followed by the omission in the first two matches must have dented his pride. A response was due. Chennai Super Kings suffered four days ago, being at the receiving end of a 33-ball 63 blitz. On Thursday, SRH fell prey to Gayle’s aggression/ire, stumbling to their first defeat this season.

Rashid Khan has enhanced his reputation enough to be ranked among the best leg-spinners in contemporary white-ball cricket. Gayle brought the young Afghan down to earth. The 14th over of the match witnessed a batting explosion. Karun Nair took a single off the first ball and the assault began. Khan’s first ball to Gayle, in that over, was full and outside the off stump. Gayle went under it and lofted the delivery over long-on. The leggie shortened his length but was hammered over the straight boundary. The youngster looked clueless. He returned to bowling full, only to be done in Gayle’s powerful bottom hand. Another straight six followed. The next delivery was slog-swept over deep backward square. But the biggest cheer came when the Punjab opener took a couple to round off the over.

Khan finished with 1/55 from four overs, conceding seven sixes. But the beginning had offered intrigue. The teenager had been brought on inside Powerplay. His first ball kept a little low and took the under edge of the bat, as Gayle went for a cut. Wriddhiman Saha could only manage a fingertip behind the stumps. It was, in fact, a half-chance even by Saha’s very lofty standards. The next delivery went for a six. Khan came back brilliantly, beating Gayle all ends up with a wrong’un. Gayle settled the score quickly, with another maximum.

His half-century came in 39 balls. It wasn’t devil-may-care batting from the ‘big man’. His next fifty, though, had been scored off just 19 deliveries. That one Khan over changed everything and took the game away from SRH. “A lot of people thought I’m too old. After this innings, I have nothing to prove. This hundred is dedicated to my daughter. Tomorrow is her birthday. This is a good wicket to bat on; just have to go out and defend it. I’m very dedicated. Since joining Kings XI, Sehwag told me to stick with the yoga guy and a massage guy, that’s the secret, I guess. In a week’s time, I will be able to touch my toes,” Gayle said after his Man-of-the-Match performance.

Bhuvi a cut above

The two SRH spinners, Khan and Shakib Al Hasan, had economy rates of 13.75 and 14.00 respectively. Part-time spinner, Deepak Hooda, conceded eight runs per over, while fast bowler Siddarth Kaul, too, went over eight runs an over. Chris Jordan, playing for Billy Stanlake, didn’t do badly. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar was once again a cut above the rest. Such is his confidence now that knuckle balls are coming in very first over. He teased KL Rahul with a beauty of an outswinger before squaring up Gayle with another away-goer. On a batting paradise, Kumar returned with 1/25 from four overs.

The seamer was SRH’s only positive takeaway from this game apart from Manish Pandey’s 57 not out off 42 balls. Kane Williamson, too, scored a half-century but the skipper got out at the wrong time. Chasing 194 for victory, SRH lost the match by 15 runs. Worse, Shikhar Dhawan retired hurt after being hit on his left elbow.

Punjab’s fielding wasn’t up to the mark. A couple catches were dropped. But it was Gayle’s night and his batting made everything else look redundant.

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