Kings XI Punjab 197 for 7 (Gayle 63, Rahul 37) beat Chennai Super Kings 193 for 5 (Dhoni 79, Rayudu 49) by four runs
Chris Gayle almost didn’t make it to IPL 2018. He was picked up only after his name was called three separate times at the auction in January, bought at a steal for his base price of INR 2 crore (USD 312,000 approx). Still, most probably expected him to feature in the starting XI to begin with, especially with the Kings XI coach Virender Sehwag declaring ahead of the season that Gayle was “worth the money even if he won them two-three games”.
But Kings XI didn’t find a place for Gayle in the side in their first two games. That changed on Sunday, a decision that earned the appreciation of the crowd at the IS Bindra Stadium when R Ashwin announced the teams at the toss. And it instantly paid off.
With Gayle’s struggles against offspin in the Powerplay well-documented – he goes at 6.5 against bowlers of this genre – MS Dhoni introduced Harbhajan Singh in the second over. Off his first ball for his new franchise, Gayle drove the offspinner languidly through the covers for four.
As is often the case when he plays one of his big innings, Gayle took time to get his eye in, moving to 6 off nine deliveries. He then slapped Harbhajan for a four and a six to begin the fourth over, and was relentless thereafter. CSK’s bowlers were erratic, and Gayle took full toll. With CSK’s bowlers offering him ample width, Gayle swung cleanly, effortlessly dispatching the ball. He hit a bulk of his runs straight down the ground; his preference for the region, and how CSK’s bowlers fed him balls to hit there, was best demonstrated by Deepak Chahar in the sixth over when the medium-pacer was tonked for two fours and as many sixes.
Complementing Gayle was KL Rahul, who was in savage hitting form himself; the duo razed 96 in eight overs. By the time the opening stand had been broken, Gayle had completed a 22-ball half-century. He would subsequently slow down, collecting 13 runs off 11 balls until his dismissal. But that couldn’t take away from a memorable debut performance for Kings XI.
Kings XI blazed a 75-run Powerplay and a total of 197 proved four runs beyond Chennai Super Kings in their third final-over finish this season.
Early in Super Kings’ chase, a steady approach had left them with 67 runs to get off the final four overs. But that strategy also meant they conserved resources for later, including MS Dhoni himself. Despite a stiff back, Dhoni turned back the clock to when he executed chases by putting himself in a head-to-head position with the bowler. Against Kings XI, it seemed like that scenario would never come. He was on 33 off 28 balls, with Super Kings requiring 65 off 21 balls. And then he began another assault, albeit a forced move, not a calculated one.
Dhoni hit three fours and three sixes from that position, and took Kings XI’s death-overs specialist Andrew Tye for 19 runs off the penultimate over. That left Super Kings with 17 to get off the final over, the same equation they successfully achieved in their last game against Kolkata Knight Riders. Super Kings were satisfied with a single off the first ball off the final over because it left Dhoni with his preferred one-on-one battle, against Mohit Sharma. Eventually, three well-executed wide yorkers meant Dhoni lost, narrowly. (ESPNcricinfo)