Chris Gayle (L) and KL Rahul put on 96 for the first wicket    AFP
Chris Gayle (L) and KL Rahul put on 96 for the first wicket AFP

There was a loud cheer when Ravichandran Ashwin mentioned that Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have brought in Chris Gayle for Marcus Stoinis before their home fixture against Chennai Super Kings (CSK). After KXIP were put into bat, Gayle repaid the team management’s trust by slamming his maiden fifty for KXIP. He was well supported by KL Rahul, striking at near 170, before KXIP’s lower-order woes crept up. Imran Tahir and Dwayne Bravo restricted the run-flow to some extent, but CSK still have to chase 198 at IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali.

Gayle and Rahul added 75 in the powerplay overs. Gayle played the big shots across the line and very straight. He pounced upon the inexperienced Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, before turning the heat on Harbhajan Singh and Tahir. His 22-ball fifty, his 22nd in IPL, was all about clear hitting. At the other end Rahul, as Harsha Bhogle said on air, put together a garden of cover drives to take KXIP to another flying start. He timed his strokes to perfection. The duo complimented each other wonderfully.

Rahul had a lapse of concentration at 37. He struck a full toss off Bhajji straight to Bravo at cover. One-down Mayank Agarwal maneuvered his strokes into the gaps efficiently. At the other end Gayle began to lose momentum after his fifty. Shane Watson got rid of him on 63.

The run rate came down briefly after that. Yuvraj Singh steered the gaps before perishing for 20. Aaron Finch got a second successive golden duck. Finch is yet to get off the mark in IPL 2018. Tahir’s knack of getting key wickets prevented KXIP’s acceleration. He finished with 2 for 34.

Karun Nair’s cameo helped KXIP to 197 for 7 after they seemed set to get over 220 at one stage. Bravo was handy as usual in the death overs and triggered his side’s comeback with a 5-run last over.

CSK are coming on the back of a successful run-chase, of 203, at Chepauk. Will they deliver again?

Brief scores

Kings XI Punjab 197 for 7 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 37, Chris Gayle 63, Mayank Agarwal 30, Karun Nair 29; Imran Tahir 2 for 34, Dwayne Bravo 1 for 37) vs Chennai Super Kings.