Two streaks originating from the number five were at stake in Match 50 of IPL 2020. One of them, five consecutive night games in Abu Dhabi won by the side chasing was extended to six. The other one, five consecutive wins for Kings XI Punjab was halted as Rajasthan Royals chased down 186 with as many as 15 balls to spare making it look like a stroll in the park.
Outside of Chris Gayle’s masterful 99, KXIP’s performance was reminiscent of their earlier days in this tournament. KL Rahul was amongst runs again but at a below-par strike-rate. The bowlers appeared listless and went further flat once the assault was launched by the opposition batsmen.
The result means RR are now placed fifth in the points table with their qualification chances boosted to 21 percent on Criclytics prediction algorithm. KXIP, still placed at fourth, now need to beat Chennai in their final league game.
Earlier in the day, RR won the toss, opted to bowl and were pushed back by the Gayle storm. Except Jofra Archer, who was once again at the top of his game, everyone else faced the wrath of Gayle’s bat.
To be fair, RR did not appear prepared to control Gayle. At the crease in the second over of the match, he was peppered with short balls but not for long enough. Archer could bowl only one delivery to the southpaw, a searing bouncer against which Gayle had to lean backwards to avoid it. Archer should have bowled his third over in the first spell itself but was preserved for later. Kartik Tyagi replaced him and following his plan to feast off the inexperienced bowler (as he did against Tushar Deshpande), Gayle collected 14 runs off the over to set the ball rolling.
He was also dropped in the fourth over by Riyan Parag off a mistimed pull shot against Varun Aaron. Gayle was batting on 10 at that moment.
With Gayle doing his thing, Rahul took a backseat. He himself played some eye-catching strokes but an innings of 46 from 41 balls seems ordinary in hindsight. The case becomes even stronger when the opposition were under the pump during a stand of 120 runs from 82 balls.
Nicholas Pooran played a cameo of 22 runs from 10 balls taking the pressure off Gayle during the death overs. KXIP will also rue the fact that Gayle only faced 16 balls out of the 32 bowled in the last five overs (two no balls). Glenn Maxwell scored only 6 from six deliveries.
On his way, Gayle created a number of records. Apart from extending his tally of 50-plus scores in T20 cricket to 107, Gayle also became the first batsman to attain the unprecedented feat of 1,000 T20 sixes. There are only 37 batsmen to have scored over 6,000 T20 runs. With a six against Tyagi in the 19th over, his seventh of the innings, Gayle amounted that mark with sixes alone.
His innings came to an anti-climatic end with Archer getting an attempted yorker under his bat swing. The ball ricocheted off Gayle’s pads onto the stumps, ending his innings on 99. Generally a calm man while batting, Gayle’s bat slipped off his hands while he was trying to kick the ground with it in a rare display of emotion. With the dismissal, he also became the only batsman to have two 99s against his name in IPL.
In the preview for this game, we mentioned that RR will need to fight fire with fire in order to topple KXIP from their winning run. Stokes did exactly that, coming out all guns blazing. He became RR’s first batsman this season to amass a fifty within the Powerplay as he carried on from where he left after his unbeaten 107 against Mumbai Indians. It also elevated RR to their highest Powerplay score outside of Sharjah this year. Not to forget, he also snaffled two wickets in a spell of 2 for 32 with the ball.
Once he was dismissed, Sanju Samson took on the mantle. Pairing up with Robin Uthappa who had the best seat to enjoy the Stokes show earlier, he added a handy 51 runs from 32 balls. Both of them played with calculated aggression which ensured RR don’t get bogged down after a great start. Moreover, they neutralized KXIP’s spin duo of Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi.
Samson pummeled 48 from 25 deliveries which never allowed the required run-rate to go up. When clubbed with Stokes’ innings, the duo scored 98 runs from 51 deliveries in comparison to Gayle’s 99 from 63 balls.
The only time KXIP could feel they were in the game was when Samson was run out in the 15th over. His attempt to steal a quick single feel short to a direct hit from the substitute fielder, Jagadeesha Suchith.
Though Jos Buttler was yet to come, the required run-rate was 8 per over and funny things have happened in this IPL. On this occasion, however, Steve Smith and Buttler razed off the deficit with an unbeaten partnership of 41 runs from 19 balls. Smith scored 31 from 20 balls while Buttler went at a strike-rate of 200 for his 22 runs. It was a collective batting effort. For the first time ever, each one of RR’s top five scored in excess of 20.
For the second game in a row, Ben Stokes won the man-of-the-match award, this time for also contributing with the ball before setting up the chase.