The wait was over, finally. Chris Gayle, the Jamaican superstar, made his first appearance this IPL in an emphatic fashion. In a dramatic, action-packed seven-ball stay in the middle, Gayle provided all the entertainment that his fans were anxiously waiting for since the league started nearly two weeks ago.
Taking strike first up to Kings XI Punjab off-spinner Glenn Maxwell, he nearly fell in the first ball when his edge fell wide of lone slip and the ball raced for four. After a defensive shot next ball, he half-heartedly drove on the up in front of square on the off side for four. Off the fourth ball, he survived a loud leg before wicket shout, lucky not to have been given out. He overcame early jitters by sending the next two balls for sixes, the first one well over off while the next landed straight on the rope.
Gayle, and Royal Challengers Bangalore, scored 20 runs off the first over. However, after a first-ball single by the other opener Parthiv Patel against young Punjab medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma, Gayle stepped out and swung wildly, only to miss the line and the off-stump.
For RCB, it all went downhill from there, managing a below-par 124/8 in 20 overs. The Kings did have a brief scare in the middle, losing five wickets, but in the end won with seven balls to spare to notch up their fifth straight win.
The star for the Kings was 20-year-old speedster who followed his 3/21 against Kolkata with another three-wicket haul, an even better 3/15 that put the brakes on the RCB march. Two deliveries after dismissing Gayle, Sharma could not hide his joy when he trapped rival captain Virat Kohli, though the batsman was unlucky as the ball seemed to be going away.
Along with Sharma, Australian star Mitchell Johnson, the ever-smiling assassin Lakshmipathi Balaji and Rishi Dhawan struck repeatedly as all the KXIP medium-pacers took wickets to restrict RCB to 124/8.
Though RCB had a small total to defend, they made a good fight of it. Mitchell Starc pulled of two brilliant catches in the deep, one of them to dismiss danger man Maxwell. This was Maxwell’s second successive low score after setting the stage afire with three back-to-back match-winning fifties. The RCB bowlers kept Virender Sehwag quiet for most of his innings. Sehwag was cautious in his approach, scoring 32 in 26 balls before becoming the fifth RCB victim in the 13th over.
However, George Bailey and Rishi Dhawan ensured that KXIP left the UAE shores with a 100 per cent success rate.