‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle arrived in the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) in style, with the West Indies opener smashing a 47-ball 79 for Kings XI Punjab in their clash against Rajasthan Royals at Jaipur.
At 39, the veteran batsman continues to go from strength to strength and he gave fans another reminder of his T20 prowess with a swashbuckling display at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur.
Gayle was in full flow against Rajasthan, with his highly entertaining knock helping Kings XI post a commanding total of 184-4. In the process, the West Indies stalwart also became the quickest batsman in IPL history to bring up 4,000 runs.
Here, we take a closer look at the southpaw’s display in his maiden IPL 2019 outing.
BALLS FACED: 47
Opening the batting for Kings XI alongside KL Rahul, Gayle started off circumspectly as has become his trademark style before launching into a ferocious assault against the Rajasthan bowlers.
The veteran changed gears once the halfway stage of Kings XI’s innings had been crossed and started to rain down the sixes on the small boundaries in Jaipur. Bringing up his half-century off just 33 balls, Gayle was looking ever so threatening as the death overs approached but he ultimately was caught excellently on the boundary ropes by Rahul Tripathi while attempting to launch another Ben Stokes delivery for a six.
No panic. Despite KL Rahul falling early at the other end along with Mayank Agarwal, Gayle kept his cool in the early stages and was content to bide his time against the likes of Jofra Archer. The 39-year-old has tailored his game to start watchfully before changing gears and that is exactly what he did against the Royals to lethal effect.
The first 26 deliveries that Gayle faced yielded only 28 runs but just seven balls later, he was bringing up another quick-fire fifty. It was hard to see anyone dislodging Gayle once he had settled and it took an exceptional catch in the deep to end his whirlwind knock in the end.
Even Archer, who had conceded just two runs from his first two overs, was made to look ordinary once Gayle was in full flow.
As has been the case with Gayle in the past couple of years, his running between the wickets left plenty to be desired. One run was being taken when there should have been two while otherwise straightforward singles were converted into dot balls, with Gayle’s fitness coming under the scanner once again.
However, when you have the ability to accelerate like Gayle and clear the boundary ropes with such consummate ease, no one is really complaining – except maybe Rajasthan’s bowlers.
VERDICT – 8/10
It wasn’t Gayle at his vintage best, with the veteran taking his time to get going at Jaipur, but he was still effective enough to help Kings XI post a total which would be considered over par at the venue.
With Punjab’s middle-order woes from last season all too well known, Gayle will be crucial once again to giving the side some excellent starts in the long campaign ahead.
Having been off the boil in the recent T20 clashes against England for the West Indies, Gayle finding form straightaway in the IPL is an ominous sign for the opposition bowlers.
Having come into the 2019 edition under new management as well as a new name, Delhi opened their campaign in style on Sunday with a 37-run win over three-time champions Mumbai Indians.
It was Rishabh Pant who was the chief architect of Delhi’s win with the youngster smashing 78 off just 27 deliveries to help his side post a daunting total of 213-6.
The Capitals had retained their young Indian core from last season which contains the likes of skipper Shreyas Iyer, Pant and Prithvi Shaw. By adding in the experience of Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma to the roster, Delhi seem to have arrived at a winning formula.
Both the India stalwarts played their parts in Delhi’s win over Mumbai with Dhawan chipping in with a 41-run knock at the top while Ishant struck two crucial blows with the new-ball.
Confidence will be running high in the Delhi camp, as their formidable batting unit is being backed by a strong pace attack led by South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada and New Zealand’s Trent Boult.
What will be interesting to see on Tuesday is whether Ricky Ponting will persist with the same playing XI that beat Mumbai. Explosive Kiwi opener Colin Munro and Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane did not feature in the match, but both the players are proven T20 performers who will be used by Delhi at some point in their campaign.
While Delhi are riding high on their young core, Chennai Super Kings continue to prove that age is just a number in T20 cricket with the squad laden with veterans still going strong.
The defending champions put Royal Challengers Bangalore to the sword in the IPL 2019 opener at Chennai with veteran spinners Harbhajan Singh and Imran Tahir starring in the seven-wicket win.
Chennai’s three spinners picked up as many as eight wickets between them as they bowled out Virat Kohli’s RCB for a paltry 70 runs. While he will take a victory in the opening match any given day, skipper MS Dhoni cut a frustrated figure over the state of the Chepauk pitch.
The Chennai track had been a minefield for spinners with the hosts themselves struggling to chase down a target of just 71 runs. The conditions in Delhi will be most certainly different on Tuesday and Dhoni’s men will need to start from scratch again.
Interestingly, the Super Kings opted to field only three overseas players in their playing XI against Bangalore despite having Mitchell Santner, David Willey and Sam Billings on the bench. With South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis joining up with the squad after completing his international engagements, it looks unlikely that Dhoni will repeat the same against Delhi.
PACE AGAINST TIME
While they are extremely strong in the spin department, Chennai’s pace battery is wearing thin with South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi ruled out of the IPL with injury. The franchise is yet to name a replacement for Ngidi but are expected to do so in the coming days.
In the batting department, veteran opener Shane Watson will be itching to open his account after being dismissed for a 10-ball duck against Bangalore. The Australian batsman and Ambati Rayudu’s opening partnership will once again be key for the three-time champions who contain a strong Indian middle-order of Suresh Raina, Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav.
Chennai have won four out of the six previous matches they have played against Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. Can the young Delhi Capitals carry the momentum from their Mumbai win and make a another giant-killing?
Delhi Capitals: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer (c), Colin Ingram, Rishabh Pant (wk), Keemo Paul, Axar Patel, Amit Mishra, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, Ishant Sharma.
Chennai Super Kings: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, MS Dhoni (c and wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir.
The Royals have an excellent record against the visitors at Jaipur, having beaten them in all five past meetings at the Sawai Mansingh stadium.
All eyes will be on Australia’s Steve Smith who makes his return for Rajasthan after a one-year absence due to his involvement in the ball-tampering saga.
Who among Rajasthan and Punjab will make a winning start to their 2019 campaign? Follow the ball-by-ball updates from Jaipur below to find out.