Veteran superstar Chris Gayle agonizingly missed out on a 23rd Twenty20 hundred when he was bowled by Barbados-born England speedster Jofra Archer for 99, as Kings XI Punjab saw their five-game winning streak snapped with a seven-wicket defeat to Rajasthan Royals on Friday.
The 41-year-old Gayle faced just 63 balls and belted half-dozen fours and eight sixes to pass 1 000 career sixes in T20s. laying the platform for Kings XI’s challenging 185 for four after being asked to bat first at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Captain KL Rahul got 46 at the top of the order while dashing West Indies left-hander Nicholas Pooran weighed in with a 10-ball 22 towards the end.
Archer bowled brilliantly to finish with two for 26 and take his tally for the Indian Premier League season to 19 wickets and 18 runs apiece.
“I just have to give thanks. Have to give thanks for hitting it well at age 41,” Gayle said afterwards.
“A lot of dedication and hard work has paid off over the years. Still here, still doing it, same way. Very grateful.”
In reply, however, English talisman Ben Stokes belted 50 off 26 balls in a 60-run opening stand with Robin Uthappa who hit 30, as Royals kept their playoff hopes alive by overhauling their target with 15 balls to spare.
Sanju Samson struck 48 off 25 balls in a 51-run, second wicket stand with Uthappa while captain Steve Smith stroked an unbeaten 31 off 20 deliveries, in an unbroken fourth wicket 41-run partnership with Jos Butter (22 not out), to see Royals over the line.
The victory put Royals fifth on 12 points with a game remaining while Kings XI remained fourth, also on 12 points, with one game left.
Requiring a sixth straight win to sew up a playoff spot, Kings XI lost Mandeep Singh for a first-ball ‘duck’ in the opening over, caught by Stokes fending off a short ball from the pacy Archer, but Gayle and Rahul combined in a 120-run partnership to rally the innings.
KL counted three fours and two sixes in a patient 41-ball innings, playing the supporting role to the in-form Gayle who dominated proceedings.
Entering at number three, Gayle teed off in the third over when he swung new ball seamer Varun Aaron over the ropes at square leg before following up in the fifth over by hammering 19-year-old seamer Kartik Tyagi for a six and two fours in an over which cost 14 runs.
He reached his second straight half-century and third in six matches in style off 33 balls, dispatching leg-spinner Rahul Tewatia over long on for six and needed only another 30 deliveries to race to 99.
When Rahul perished in the 15th over, Gayle paired with Pooran to add another 41 runs for the third wicket, the Trinidadian hitting three sixes in his cameo before falling at the end of the 18th over.
Gayle moved into the 90s in the penultimate over when he cleared the leg-side boundary with Tyagi to mark his 1000th sixth and started the final over from Archer on 92.
He managed a single off the first ball but then whacked the third delivery – a high full toss – over long on to move to the brink of his landmark.
However, Archer proved too much for Gayle with his next delivery, yorking the Jamaican to end an outstanding innings.
Gayle, who struggled to break into the Kings XI side this season, now has 276 runs from six innings at an average of 46.