The 38-year-old Jamaican, who twice went unsold at the auction and was later picked up by the Punjab franchise for a base price of Rs 2 crore, played a trademark innings toying with the opposition attack.
Playing his first game of the season, he hammered 66 off 33 balls and raced to his half-century off 22 balls. His fastest fifty had come off 17 balls, against Pune in 2013.
His knock was studded with four sixes and seven boundaries.
The West Indian weaved a 96-run opening partnership alongside the in-form K L Rahul (37 off 22), setting up the platform for a big score.
Mayank Agarwal (30 off 19) and Karun Nair (29 off 17) too chipped in with useful contributions.
Harbhajan Singh gave Chennai the first breakthrough when Rahul was caught by Dwayne Bravo, but by then KXIP were comfortably placed and reached 100 in just 8.4 overs.
Tahir dealt a double blow in innings' 16th over removing a set Agarwal and Aaron Finch, who was out for a first-ball duck for the second game in a row.
Yuvraj Singh (20 off 13), who struggled in the first two games, seemed to get into his groove before Thakur had him caught behind off a short ball.
KXIP slowed down in the last five overs but eventually reached an imposing total.
The second and third overs of the innings bowled by Harbhajan and Chahar somewhat contained the two openers, but the off-spinner was severely punished in his second over.
After a boundary, Gayle hit Harbhajan for a towering six over long off which was followed by two stylish boundaries from Rahul.
The first bowling change introduced by Dhoni to bring in Shradul Thakur did not help as Punjab batsmen continued their blistering strikes. The medium pacer was greeted by two boundaries by the West Indian while Rahul too hit a four of him.
Punjab raced to 50 in just 30 balls and there was no respite in sight for Dhoni's bowlers. In the sixth over of innings, Gayle dispatched Chahar for two huge sixes over long on and long off.
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