New Delhi: Punjab smoked KKR bowlers thanks to openers KL Rahul (60 off 27) and Chris Gayle (62 n.o in 38 balls), who went in with a destructive mood. KL Rahul looked in supreme touch, showed perfect balance and was spot on with his footwork. Gayle, on the other end, did what he is best at -- wait for the ball in his range. Mind you, this is the Gayle from the Test mindset, who would respect every good ball and launch his attack the moment a bowler errs. With a powerplay score of 73/0, KXIP went back into the pavilion at 96/0 in the ninth over after rain interrupted play.
Punjab were provided with a terrific start and were way ahead of the par score of 65 by the Duckworth Lewis method. Rahul was unbeaten on 46 off 23 while the burly Caribbean was batting on 49 off 27 balls. But when the play resumed, Punjab were asked to make 125 in 13 overs. They were 28 away in 29 balls and both batters continued from they left off. Gayle smacked a six to reach his third fifty-plus score in as many games while Rahul stroked his way to another fifty with a maximum too. Eventually, Punjab won their fourth match by 9 wickets (DLS method).
Unlike Gayle, who picked his bowlers, Rahul picked the spot well against each bowler. When he played Shivam Mavi and Andre Russell, he covered the line well and was on top of the ball to play sublime drives. Against spinners, he wasn't committing himself on the front foot so soon and rocked back immediately to the balls pitched on the good length as well. The Eden Gardens wicket didn't have a skiddy texture, thus giving Rahul the time to trust his back foot game.
Gayle was the exact opposite. He was fed width and he burped after walloping the bowlers around. Despite having trouble early on against Mavi's swing, Gayle remained calm and waited for the youngster to err. And when he did, he muscled the ball. When Andre Russell found the going tough against him, Sunil Narine was introduced.
After giving respect to Narine early on, Gayle pummelled him as well the moment he veered off. That said, Gayle has shown a wise approach to batting and the way he has gone so far, it will not be wrong to assess that it could be Gayle who can lead KXIP's charge this season.
While KKR's 191 looked to be a good total, KXIP have shown thrice in four matches that if they start in an explosive way, just like they did on Saturday, they have been able to mow down huge totals. Only once have they ended below 50 in the powerplay and had to settle for a loss against RCB.