Gayle half-century, Sarfaraz muscle Punjab to 184/4 against Rajasthan
Chris Gayle struck his 25th Indian T20 league fifty. (BCCI Image)

Chris Gayle, for the second time in two years, began the season in scintillating fashion. In Punjab‘s opening match of the 2019 Indian T20 League, Gayle struck his 25th half-century of the tournament to muscle the team to 184/4 against Rajasthan at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Monday. (READ: Match highlights)

Gayle forged crucial partnerships – 56 with Mayank Agarwal for the second wicket and another 84 with Sarfaraz Khan – to maintain steam till his exit, after which a few lusty blows towards the end from youngster Sarfaraz ensured Punjab finished strongly. (READ: Gayle quickest to 5000 runs)

Lately, the structure to Gayle’s batting has been to see off a period of calm before bringing out the storm. And tonight was no different. From 34 off 29, Gayle took one over to change the course of the innings drastically. The man in the firing line was Jaydev Unadkat, who variations weren’t to flummox Gayle. The West Indies batsman took 19 off his over – the 12th of the innings – including three consecutive boundaries and a six to bring up his half-century.

Ben Stokes tried to bowl length ball and the fuller delivery, but Gayle spared neither. The 16th over fetched read: 6, 4, 4, Wide, and 4. But the fifth delivery sent him back, though not before he had crunched a short delivery to find Rahul Tripathi at deep midwicket. He eventually departed for a 47-ball 79, celebrating the game in which Gayle became the fastest to 4000 runs in the Indian T20 League.

Gayle did the sensible thing to see off the new ball, especially after Dhawal Kulkarni had removed KL Rahul fourth ball of the innings. Rahul began with a crisp cover drive for a boundary before Kulkarni got his man out caught behind – the fourth time in six innings that he’d had Rahul’s number. Agarwal began with flair, smoking Krishnappa Gowtham and Unadkat over the rope to near identical strokes before Gowtham, his Karnataka teammate had him out caught in the deep.

In the two overs after which Gayle departed, runs became hard to come by. Jofra Archer and Shreyas Gopal gave just conceded just 10 runs combined in the 17th and 18th over before Sarfraz and Nicholas Pooran stuck a couple of boundaries each to reclaim momentum. And even though the West Indies wicketkeeper batsman departed off the first ball, Sarfraz struck a four and a final-ball six to finish the innings with a flourish.

Brief Scores: Punjab 184/4 (Chris Gayle 79, Sarfaraz Khan 46*; Ben Stokes 2/48) against Rajasthan.