Gayle’s blazing ton hands Sunrisers first loss
Kings XI Punjab 193 for 3 (Gayle 104*, Nair 31) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 178 for 4 (Pandey 57*, Williamson 54, Tye 2-23) by 15 runs. Prior to the start of IPL 2018, Kings XI Punjab’s director Virender Sehwag said Chris Gayle would be worth the money spent on him if he were to win his team two or three games. Gayle has now played two match-winning innings in two matches. Four days after his 33-ball 63 against Chennai Super Kings, Gayle shellacked his sixth IPL hundred and 21st overall in T20s to consign Sunrisers Hyderabad to their first defeat of the season. On Sunday, Gayle lined-up CSK’s medium-pacers, but adopted a different approach against a formidable Sunrisers attack. He saw off Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s first spell and later unleashed a brutal assault on Rashid Khan’s legspin. All told, Gayle smashed 42 off 16 balls from Rashid at a strike-rate of 262.50. Gayle batted through the innings for his 104 not out off 63 balls, which also included four twos. In pursuit of 194, Sunrisers lost early wickets as well as Shikhar Dhawan to an elbow injury, and there was no way back for them, despite fifties from their captain Kane Williamson and Manish Pandey.
After becoming the first captain to opt to bat this season, R Ashwin reckoned Kings XI would be better off setting a target as opposed to chasing one against the best attack in the tournament at one of India’s larger grounds. Gayle and KL Rahul began cautiously against the swing and change-ups of Bhuvneshwar and Chris Jordan, and played out 12 dots in the first three overs. Gayle then launched Kings XI’s innings when he hit four boundaries in seven balls, including three leg-side sixes off Jordan and Rashid. In between, he was dropped on 14 by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha off Rashid’s first ball – a difficult chance off the toe end when he looked to cut. Rahul, at the other end, had an early scare when he was given out lbw on 5, but he survived after a review thanks to a thin inside edge. Rahul moved to 18 off 20 before being pinned in front by a Rashid skidder. Rahul’s Karnataka team-mate Mayank Agarwal flickered briefly before slicing Siddarth Kaul to backward point for 18 off 9; by then Kings XI were 83 for 2 in the 11th over.
With two wickets falling in quick succession, Gayle slowed down and brought up his fifty off 39 balls. He then kicked into top gear and became only the second batsman, after AB de Villiers, to take Rashid for four sixes in an over. Gayle did so off successive balls, in the 14th over, which cost 27 runs. When Rashid erred too full, Gayle simply opened up hips and put the sightscreen in danger, and when Rashid dragged his length back he mowed the ball over the leg side. The visual moment of the over, though, came when he hared back for a second run off the last ball and wore a wry smile. With their premier spinner leaking runs, Sunrisers were forced to look beyond their frontline options. Deepak Hooda, however, could not do much with his part-time offspin.
After getting to his first fifty off 39 balls, Gayle surged to his second off only 19 balls. He moved to 99 with his 11th six – the most by a batsman this season – and raised the landmark by guiding one past backward point in the 19th over. He brought out the ‘cradle’ and later dedicated the innings to his daughter, who will turn two on Friday. Gayle found supporting hands from Karun Nair (31) and Aaron Finch (14*) as Kings XI finished strongly at 193 for 3. Rashid was left nursing his worst T20 figures of 4-0-55-1.
Sunrisers received a big blow in the first over when Dhawan retired hurt after taking a blow to the elbow, and he did not return to bat. Mohit Sharma varied his pace excellently and bowled both Wriddhiman Saha and Yusuf Pathan to leave Sunrisers 37 for 2 in five overs. Williamson and Pandey worked past the early blows with a 76-run stand for the third wicket, but they struggled to keep in touch with the soaring asking rate. Mujeeb Zadran’s mystery spin, Andrew Tye’s control, and the bigger boundaries in Mohali did not help Sunrisers’ cause either. When Williamson holed out for 54 off 41 balls in the 15th over, Sunrisers were left needing 81 off 34 balls. It was just too much for a middle order lacking muscle.