Quick half-centuries from Chris Gayle and KL Rahul propelled Kings XI Punjab to a commanding nine-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL on Saturday to give them their fourth win in five games and a top-of-the-table spot.
After Kolkata scored 191/7 courtesy Chris Lynn’s 41-ball 74, Punjab had reached 96-0 in 8.2 overs when rain hit the game. The target was revised to 125 from 13 overs, and they got to 126/1 in 11.1.
Rahul, who scored a 27-ball 60 with nine fours and two sixes, was declared the Player of the Match and said after the game that his approach was to be aggressive and take the opposition down.
“I don’t know what’s happening, but I don’t want to question what’s going well for me,” said Rahul, who now has scores of 51, 47, 37, 18and 60 in the competition. “The approach is to stay aggressive and take the opposition down. The simpler you keep it, the clearer you will be as a batsman. Don’t want to complicate my batting – see ball, hit ball.”
Conceding that he had spoken to Gayle about the need to attack from both ends, Rahul said, “Me and Chris have spoken, we’re going to back our games. If he’s going for it, doesn’t mean I take the back seat.”
The respect was mutual as Gayle – who owned the Orange Cap after becoming the leading run-scorer in the tournament only for a short while; he was overtaken by Virat Kohli later in the day – said that Rahul could easily have been in his place.
“Good to be among the runs. Doesn’t matter about the Orange Cap, I think Rahul deserves it. To be honest, I didn’t strike it really well, but when you have momentum going, you need to capitalise,” said Gayle, who scored an unbeaten 62 in 38 balls.
Punjab captain R Ashwin was understandably happy with his team’s third win on the trot.
“Happier with this win, compared to the previous one (against Sunrisers Hyderabad). The par score was about 210. We had a time out, and I told the boys we should try and restrict to 190. KL looked like a million dollars, and well, Chris is Chris,” he said.
All wasn’t gloomy for Kolkata either, as Sunil Narine became the new owner of the Purple Cap by going level with Mumbai Indians’ Mayank Markande’s tally of eight wickets. Narine picked up the only Kings XI wicket to fall, that of Rahul.
“The bowling is coming along. It was going to be pretty easy for Kings XI after the rain break. Gayle and Rahul showed how good they are,” Narine said.
Dinesh Karthik, the Kolkata captain, however, rued the side’s failure to go for the final push with the bat in the last few overs – they scored 45 runs off the last five.
“I think they took us on in the Powerplay and played really good shots,” said Karthik, who scored a 28-ball 43 on the day. “There seems to be a trend where we tend to miss out on the last couple of overs with the bat. It’s important that we finish the innings well.
“We didn’t execute plans and a player like Gayle will always hit you if you miss your lengths.”