Chris Gayle's 21st T20 century left the opposition devoid of ideas. © BCCI

Chris Gayle’s 21st T20 century left the opposition devoid of ideas. © BCCI

If Chris Gayle’s 33-ball 63 against Chennai Super Kings didn’t instil enough fear in bowlers, his 63-ball 104 not out against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday (April 19) certainly did as the left-handed opener lapped up his second man of the match award in as many games for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League 2018.

In the post-match presentation, the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ said that having already “been there, done that” he had nothing more to prove, but said that he was only here “to put some respect on my name” plausibly referring to the fact that he was ignored for most of the IPL 2018 auction in January and only picked up by Kings XI Punjab as an afterthought at his base price of INR 2 crore.

Hyderabad faced the full brunt of Gayle’s mission to show that age was just a number as all their meticulous plans, which had worked in all three previous games, came to nothing in face of a full-blooded assault by the swashbuckling 38-year-old, who romped his way to his 21st T20 hundred — furthering his already strong hold on the record for the most centuries in the shortest format.

The severity of the assault resulted in Kane Williamson, the opposition captain, making desperate changes to his bowling plans, none of which had much of an impact. In attempt to get Gayle out, he bowled out Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Chris Jordan, leaving Rashid Khan with the unenviable task of delivering the final over, after the legspinner had been smacked for four back-to-back sixes by Gayle earlier in the game.

“The mindset was to execute plans chalked out by the team, and to decided which areas to bowl at Gayle at different stages of the game,” said Siddarth Kaul, the Hyderabad seamer, after the match. “We were planning in those terms but it was tough luck that his execution was better than ours today. All his shots were connecting well so credit to him.”

Hyderabad were put under pressure after Rashid Khan, their lead legspinner, was smashed for four back-to-back sixes by Gayle. © BCCI

Hyderabad were put under pressure after Rashid Khan, their lead legspinner, was smashed for four back-to-back sixes by Gayle. © BCCI

“Gayle played his part to perfection. He picked who he wanted to go after, went after them, made sure he put pressure on Kane Williamson to bowl his bowlers when he did and making sure he didn’t get out so that he could launch at the end. You don’t see Rashid go for more than 25 so to see him get hit for 43 or 49… that was awesome,” said Andrew Tye, the Punjab quick.

“Our main bowler was Rashid Khan and he got hit for a few runs, so we thought we’ll bowl him in the end, and bowl the experienced guys like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Chris Jordan and even myself. The idea was to try and get Gayle out and then probably get Rashid back on. It isn’t set in stone that Bhuvneshwar will always bowl the last over, it depends on the situation as well,” Kaul explained the thinking behind the change in bowling plans.

The trend in the IPL 2018 has been to win toss and bowl first, but R Ashwin decided to go the other way after winning the toss on Thursday. Tye said that as a bowler, there is an advantage to be had from watching their opposition counterparts in the first innings.

“You get to have a look at what they’ve done, see what balls worked for them, where they can tie runs down. We summed up that it was skidding on a bit so a good hard length when the ball was new because the ball was not bouncing so we could pull it back a bit. The slower ball was pretty hard to hit on that wicket,” he offered.

Punjab’s bowlers’ task was made a tad simpler when Shikhar Dhawan was dealt a severe blow to his elbow by a Barinder Sran short delivery early in the chase, which caused the explosive opener to sit out the rest of the game, but Kaul said that Hyderabad were not going to use that as an excuse, and maintained that the batting unit had done well, and there was no need for panic.

“Dhawan’s injury was a setback. But we had players that can convert starts and in the end we fell short only by 15 runs, wasn’t as big a margin as one might have expected initially. We have good players, we’re doing well, and we’ve been at the top of the table until now. I don’t think one defeat warrants big changes, but we’ll look to perform better in the coming games,” explained the bowler.

As much as Gayle’s knock helped the hosts mount an imposing total, that was only half the task accomplished. The bowlers’ still had to defend it against a strong batting unit. Tye used the knuckle ball to good effect, taking 2 for 23 in his four overs, to help Punjab win with ease.

Asked on his use of the knuckle ball, he said “It all depends on what I’m feeling at the time, whether the knuckle ball, the off-cutter, the leg-cutter or the back of the hand slower one. I try and figure out what is working for me on the day, and today it was the knuckle ball, so I stuck with that. Sometimes it works, sometimes I get hit out of the park and you look like bit of an idiot, but that’s alright.”