Sharjah: KL Rahul played a captain’s knock and Chris Gayle fired in his first game since January as Kings XI Punjab finally ended their five-match losing streak with an eight-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in an IPL match here on Thursday. Chasing 172 in a must-win game, the in-form opening pair of Rahul (61 not off 49) and Mayank Agarwal (45 off 25) got off to a flying start before Gayle (53 off 45) joined his skipper in the middle to get KXIP close to the finishing line.
Needing seven off the final two overs with nine wickets in hand, KXIP somehow managed to take the game to the last ball with Nicholas Pooran finally hitting the winning six. Both Rahul and Gayle smashed five sixes each, rendering the opposition attack helpless.
Batting first, skipper Virat Kohli top-scored with 48 off 39 balls in his 200th game for RCB before Chris Morris’ 25 off 8 in the death overs took the team to 171 for six. It was a rare all-round effort from KXIP who had failed to close out games earlier in the competition.
Mohammad Shami (2/45) conceded 24 runs in the final over that spoiled his figures after he got rid of Kohli and AB de Villiers but overall it was a much improved bowling effort by KXIP especially in the death overs. Leg spinner M Ashwin struck twice and pacer Chris Jordan took his first wicket of the tournament.
The run chase was supposed to be straightforward after Agarwal took the opposition to the cleaners in the powerplay before Rahul took over. As usual, the 41-year-old Gayle, batting at three, took his time early on before going ballistic. Earlier, KXIP conceded only 25 runs from over 16-19 before Morris and Isuru Udana hammered Shami for three sixes.
Rahul experimented by opening the bowling with Glenn Maxwell (0/28 in 4 overs). He was slog swept by his Australian teammate and close friend Aaron Finch on the final ball. Other opener Devdutt Padikkal (18) also went for his shots with his best hit of the night being the whip off Shami that went for a six over deep square leg.
However, both Padikkal and Finch could not build on their starts. Padikkal was foxed by a slower one from left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh to be caught at cover, while Finch missed a fast leg-break from M Ashwin, leaving RCB at 62 for two in the seventh over. With Kohli looking good at the other end, AB de Villiers was expected to come in at his usual number four spot but with two leg-spinners in operation, left-handed batsman Washington Sundar was sent ahead of the South African.
The move did not work as he struggled to 13 off 14 balls. KXIP, whose bowling has been the weakest link, did rather well from 11-14 overs conceding just 20 runs to put pressure on the opposition.
RCB needed to move on and southpaw Shivam Dube provided the timely strike, dispatching Ravi Bishnoi to consecutive sixes to amass 19 runs from the over. Following Dube’s dismissal in the 15th over, De Villiers finally joined Kohli for the late assault, which was eventually provided by Morris.