Chris Gayle's blistering 99 went down the drain as Rajasthan Royals (RR) managed to hunt down the total and register a seven-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) on Friday. Chasing a 186-run target, Royals' run-chase was initially bolstered by Ben Stokes (50) and Robin Uthappa (30).
After Stokes' departure, it was Sanju Samson who stitched a vital 48 off 25 deliveries to make things easier for his side. In the end, skipper Steve Smith (31) and Jos Buttler (22) sealed the victory for Royals, helping them climb to the fifth position in the points table.
After being put to bat first, KXIP were guided to a dominant start by skipper KL Rahul and Chris Gayle. The duo weaved a 120-run stand to put its side in a commanding position. However, their bowling unit wasn't successful in curbing Royals' run-flow in the second innings.
Reacting to the defeat, Rahul heaped praise on Gayle's sublime show and said it wasn't an easy thing to bat on a 'sticky' wicket like that.
"I thought we were 10-15 runs ahead of a par score. We've seen scores here before and 160-170 was what we decided to be a winning total. After losing Mandeep early, I and Chris Gayle felt like the wicket wasn't an easy one to bat on. A lot of credit goes to Chris. I don't think anyone apart from Chris would've been able to bat like that on a sticky wicket and give us best chance to win the game," said Rahul in the post-match press conference.
"Gayle is a huge part of our dressing room. Not only because of his consistency but to have somebody like that is very inspiring. He keeps the dressing room positive and there's a lot of fun happening when Chris is batting. No one will say he's 41. He still looks like the Gayle when he first burst out in the IPL," he added.
Rahul further also discussed the dew factor, pointing out that it wasn't an easy task for their bowlers to deliver in such conditions. He even acknowledged RR batsmen for the way they batted and hit a flurry of boundaries to put pressure on KXIP's bowling force.
"We did discuss before the game. It was an important game for us. If I would've won the toss, I would've chosen to bowl as well because we expected dew later. We've seen dew so many times in IPL as well as international cricket. Our bowlers have done really well this season and one game doesn't change much. We must keep our heads high and come back stronger in the next game. We'll try finishing on a winning note and hopefully sneak in on the number four position. It's good learning for the bowlers as well," Rahul further said.
"One of the big reasons why the Royals could bat their way was the dew factor. Not taking anything away from their batsmen. They did put pressure on our bowlers and used the powerplay efficiently. Every batsman who came in started striking the ball and hitting boundaries. It worked for them and dew was a big reason behind that," he added.
Eyeing to get two much-needed points in their next game, KXIP are scheduled to face MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings on Sunday at Abu Dhabi.
"The next game will be completely different as it's a day game. I know how hard we had to work to give us a chance to be in the top four. That's something to be proud of as a team. It's important to go out there and enjoy ourselves and try our best to execute our skills. If we do that, we'll be able to get two more points," concluded the KXIP skipper.