Languishing at the bottom of the points-table at the start of the match, Kings XI Punjab couldn’t have wished for a better consolation at the end of the road than a comeback-victory over table-topper Chennai Super Kings.
Chasing 171 before the home crowd, that cheered more for Super Kings, K. L. Rahul and Chris Gayle gave a rollicking 108-run start to set up a comprehensive six-wicket win. The victory, besides ending a four-match losing streak, lifted Kings XI to the sixth spot on the points-table, ahead of Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
A consolation for Super Kings was that it denied Kings XI a win in under 14.3 overs and confirmed its presence in the first qualifier at home on Tuesday.
Rahul overshadowed Gayle as he raced away to a 19-ball half century — fastest by an opener and third quickest of the season. He was particularly severe on Harbhajan Singh, hitting the off-spinner for four sixes and three fours in two overs — that produced 41 runs!
Later, Harbhajan had his revenge by scalping the openers off successive deliveries to revive Super Kings’s hopes.
The PowerPlay produced 68 runs including Rahul’s 55, the highest in the first six overs this season ahead of David Warner’s 52 against Rajasthan Royals. Gayle, after scoring just eight off 15 deliveries, made his presence felt in the seventh over by hitting Imran Tahir for a four, followed by two sixes!
Even though Dwayne Bravo pushed in two overs for just nine runs, Kings XI reached 100 off nine overs!
After Rahul, Gayle and Mayank Agarwal became Harbhajan’s victims, Nicholas Pooran brought Kings XI within seven runs of victory following a quick-fire 36.
No acceleration at the ‘death’
What shifted the momentum for Kings XI when it bowled was the manner in which the trio of skipper R. Ashwin, Sam Curran and Mohammad Shami pulled things back in the last four overs. Only 20 runs came for the loss of four wickets off the last 21 deliveries and at the innings-break, Super Kings had reasons to feel somewhat restricted to 170.
In fact, the second-wicket stand was already worth 120 runs between half centurions Faf du Plessis and Suresh Raina when Curran ended the 75-ball partnership by sending back the latter.
The South African opener smashed 44 runs off 14 deliveries, the sequence being 4,6,1,4,4,6,2,1,1,6,1,1,1,6, to reach 96, but the next ball, a Curran yorker, found the stumps off the batsman’s pads.
For a change, Dhoni could not finish with a flourish. He remained unbeaten on a 12-ball 10 after Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav fell cheaply in the final over.
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