During the course of his innings – his 25th IPL fifty – Gayle became the fastest (in terms of number of innings batted) to reach 4000 runs in the league – a milestone he achieved in his 112th inning. He also overtook MS Dhoni and became the 8th highest scorer in IPL history – Gayle now aggregates 4073 runs at an average of 41.56 and strike rate of 151.01. His exploits include 6 hundreds and he is now just 26 runs behind David Warner on the list of highest aggregate runs by an overseas batsman in IPL history.
What should worry his opponents is the timing of this knock. This was Gayle’s highest score in his first match of a season in 4 seasons (he had scored 96 in 56 deliveries against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in his first match in 2015).
It was a typical slow-start and boom-later Gayle innings on the night. He played as many as 9 dot balls and had crawled to 14 off 18 deliveries in the first seven overs. He hit just one boundary in this time-period. It was almost as if he did not want to hit a boundary in this phase of play!
And then Dr. Jekyll gave way to Mr. Hyde.
Gayle raced from 14 off 18 balls to 52 off 33 balls – that was an acceleration of 38 runs in 15 deliveries at a strike rate of 253.33! 32 off these 38 runs came in boundaries – 5 fours and 2 sixes including 19 off an over by Jaydev Unadkat.
He got stuck into Ben Stokes and took the England bowler for 14 (6.4.4) before holding out to the deep mid-wicket boundary. From 32 for 1 in the powerplay, Kings XI had moved to 144 for 3 in 15.5 overs when Gayle was dismissed. The southpaw had scored almost 55% of Kings XIs runs at the time of his exit.
This was a tried and tested formula for Gayle – of starting cautiously and changing gears after he has faced a dozen or so deliveries. It is a high-risk formula but more often than not it has paid dividends for Gayle and the teams he has represented.
Gayle has been in ominous form of late. He has scored 619 runs in his last 10 limited over innings (ODIs and T20s combined) at an average of 68.78 and strike rate of 132.83.
He had registered 368 runs in 11 matches at 40.88 at a strike rate of 146.03 last season in the IPL. His greatest period was between 2011-2013 when he scored a minimum of 600 runs at a strike rate of above 155 in each of the three seasons.
Quite clearly, the warning bell has been sounded. Opposition attacks better watch out for the Universe Boss.
First Published: March 26, 2019, 8:17 AM IST