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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

IPL 2018: Chris Gayle not done with cricket just yet as unbeaten hundred blows Sunrisers Hyderabad away

On Friday, more than a thousand fans travel from Chennai to Pune to cheer on Super Kings against Rajasthan Royals

Kings XI Punjab opener Chris Gayle shows he is still capable of hitting match-winning hundreds. Chandan Khanna / AFP
Kings XI Punjab opener Chris Gayle shows he is still capable of hitting match-winning hundreds. Chandan Khanna / AFP

Chris Gayle turned back the clock on Thursday, scoring an unbeaten hundred, as Kings XI Punjab beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 15 runs in their Indian Premier League (IPL) game at Mohali.

The 38-year-old West Indian, whose big hitting underpinned many a win for Royal Challengers Bangalore for nearly a decade, had seen his star wane in recent times.

But after scoring a match-winning 63 for Punjab against Chennai Super Kings last Sunday, the left-hander announced he was not done with the game just yet. He followed it up with 104 not out to help the King XI post 178-4 in their allotted 20 overs on Thursday.

Gayle received support from Karun Nair, who contributed 31 runs to the scoreboard, but the question was whether the total was imposing enough for the in-form Hyderabad side.

This turned out to be the case as Punjab’s seamers, the Australian Andrew Tye (2-23) and India’s Mohit Sharma (2-51) helped curb the Sunrisers’ run chase by taking wickets at regular intervals.

As a result, Punjab joined Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders at the top of the table, with each team on six points.

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Whistle Podu Express on its way

Meanwhile, Super Kings have arranged for a special train called ‘Whistle Podu Express’ to carry more than a thousand supporters from Chennai to Pune for their match against Rajasthan Royals on Friday.

The fans’ expenses, including the “train fare, food, accommodation, local transportation, match tickets and jersey” will be borne by the management, a club statement said.

Super Kings ‘host’ the Royals at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium after being forced out of their original home in Chennai due to security concerns caused by public protests over the Cauvery river dispute that has plagued the state of Tamil Nadu lately.

But with Pune about as far from Jaipur – home to the Royals – as it is from Chennai, it is hard to say which of the two teams really have an advantage.

In fact, Rajasthan captain Ajinkya Rahane was born in a village just three hours’ drive from Pune and has played many matches there.

Hence by flagging off the train, Super Kings will not only have a few supporters backing them inside the stadium, it is also a goodwill gesture many a fan will surely remember for a long time.

In any case, Rahane’s men will begin the game as underdogs for two reasons: firstly, they are up against a settled Chennai side led by former India captain MS Dhoni, and secondly, Rajasthan have not played as well as their opponents have despite both sides being level on four points.

For instance, if not for a cracking innings from Sanju Samson, it is unlikely they would have beaten the Royal Challengers earlier this week.

Enough to say, Rajasthan will need to raise their game to win on Friday.