New Delhi: You might get away if Chris Gayle is angry. For you know, he might give you a chance now and then. But God saves you if he isn't angry but looking to anchor the innings. That is very very very unusual of Gayle.
On Thursday, Gayle appeared in a similar mood, showing no nerves or anxiety to provide a fiery start. Gayle negotiated some good bowling in the powerplay and waited patiently to get deliveries in his range. When he actually got balls in his arc, he clubbed them hard, long and far out of the park. In Gayle's flesh, perhaps MS Dhoni's soul had entered as he looked to finish the innings on a high. In the process, he reached his 6th IPL hundred with 11 sixes and carried his bat through to take KXIP to 193/3 in 20 overs. Gayle remained unbeaten on 104 off 63 balls and his whirlwind knock took KXIP to their third win by 15 runs.
Chasing 193, SRH dealt with a huge blow as Shikhar Dhawan was injured on the fifth ball of the innings. He was hit on the back of his elbow on a short pitch delivery by Barinder Sran. Post that, SRH couldn't take off and were always chasing a tall ask. Kane Williamson and Manish Pandey scored gritty fifties but it was not enough for SRH, though they reached 178. Had Dhawan provided a sound start at the top, it could perhaps been SRH's game.
Even though SRH managed to start really well in the powerplay, KXIP eventually made up for the loss as Gayle went hammers and tongs in Rashid Khan's third over and clubbed him for four sixes and two singles in the 14th over to collect 27 runs in his over, taking KXIP from 104 to 131. Where it looked that KXIP could reach only 170-180, Gayle's power play set a perfect platform for them to target at least 200 on a pitch that looked placid. Though they fell short by 7 runs, still it proved to be a daunting total considering KXIP bowling held their own.
Gayle's hatred for Rashid began in the fifth over of the innings when the leggie nearly got him of the first ball. Gayle snicked a googly, which Wriddhiman Saha failed to pouch behind. After that, Gayle's onslaught was launched. Rashid looked to pitch a little fuller and Gayle went for the lofted drives. Both of them landed rows back in the stands.
Yes, wrist spinners are in vogue and of course in T20, but they come with a warning. The warning says handle them at your own peril. They will get you wickets but on their off days, they can concede truckloads of runs to give the opposition the upper hand. For SRH, Rashid Khan experienced one such day on Thursday evening. The Afghan spinner was taken to the cleaners by Chris Gayle and ended his spell with forgettable figures of 4-0-55-1.
Before this game, SRH rode on Rashid's brilliant bowling and restricted every opposition under 150. In a way, the spinners had an off-day in Mohali as the ball rarely broke off the wicket and they were forced to do something extra. That extra landed a touch fuller and in the arc of Gayle. He showed no mercy and kept bludgeoning them for sixes.
Though Rashid got a chance to get Gayle on the first ball when a bottom edge was fluffed by Wriddhiman Saha. After that, Rashid was all over the place. Compared to his previous games, his length troubled him more than anything. He had been hitting the in-between length with aplomb and that is the length where his variations become even more dangerous. But on Thursday, more often than not, he overpitched. No matter what the variation, if it landed in Gayle's territory, it was pummelled, clubbed over his head for huge hits.
Having bowled a brilliant second over getting KL Rahul, Rashid simply couldn't replicate the effort in his next two overs. The 14th over was plundered by Gayle, who hit him for 27 runs including 4 sixes. Then he was brought in the last over against a rusty Aaron Finch. But over after over, his length was getting fuller and helped Finch to get out of his slump, clubbing the leggie for two sixes.
Coming back to Gayle, the best part of his innings was the way he crafted his innings. He never looked in a hurry and made sure he was rotating the strike. He ran hard between the wickets by nudging the good balls here and there. And if he is doing that on top of striking big, the opposition team was always going to be in big danger. Despite him taking a lot of singles, Gayle's 11 sixes took his strike rate over 164.
Gayle displayed focus and showed hunger for runs. The thing to notice is that any ball which was out of his arc was pushed or dabbed for a single. Both Shakib and Deepak Hooda were hit for just one six each only when they went fuller. Gayle's image has been such that teams tend to take him on but on a night when he himself was taking it easy, there was going to be no mercy. Gayle was aware that the pacers would want to get him out and will bowl short as well. Just ask Chris Jordon how he felt when a couple of his short-pitched deliveries were pulled with utter disdain?
Bhuvneshwar, who had delivered brilliant powerplay overs, struggled a bit against a set Gayle in the death as he too was clubbed for a six to take him to 99. Gayle followed it up with a single to reach his 6th IPL century. He gave the crowd every penny worth of entertainment.
This was his second fifty-plus score in as many games and his celebration of cradling a baby showed how he is cradling KXIP this season. Having not picked in the first auction, Gayle is showing that he is the Universe Boss and still packs a huge punch, even at 37.