Swashbuckling opener Chris Gayle missed a well-deserved century by a whisker, smashing an unbeaten 99 off 64 balls to power Kings XI Punjab to a 173 for four against Royal Challengers Bangalore in an IPL match here Saturday.
The 39-year-old West Indian, who had suffered a back spasm after last match, carried his bat, recording his highest score of this IPL season blasting five sixes and as many as 10 hits to the fence to single-handedly anchor the Punjab innings.
Invited to bat, Gayle stitched a 66-run opening stand off 38 balls with KL Rahul (18) and kept the scoreboard ticking even though he lost partners on the other end at regular intervals.
RCB could have dismissed Gayle in the first over itself when he was hit on the leg by Umesh Yadav but Kohli didn't go for a DRS and the West Indian escaped.
Gayle made RCB pay for the mistake as he hit a four and six off Umesh's next over, before smashing Navdeep Saini for a boundary.
Rahul joined the party, sending Umesh for a couple of fours.
In the sixth over, Gayle exploded as he welcomed Mohammad Siraj with a four at long off and followed it up with a six over long-on and another boundary across cover.
He then pulled another one over square leg before sending the ball across the fine leg as KXIP amassed 24 runs to end the powerplay at 60 for no loss.
Yuzvendra Chahal was then introduced into the attack and Rahul lifted him over long-on for a maximum but the spinner had him stumped in the next delivery to produce a crucial breakthrough.
Back in the team after missing the last match due to a finger injury, Mayank Agarwal then joined Gayle, who completed his fifty in 28 balls.
Agarwal smashed Chahal over extra cover for a six but the spinner once again returned to remove the batsman in the next delivery by cleaning him up with a super delivery.
Sam Curran (1) too couldn't stay longer and was removed by Moeen Ali as Punjab slipped to 114 for four in 14th over.
Mandeep Singh (18) then gave company to Gayle as the duo provided the late charge, scoring 60 off 37 balls.
In the 17th over, Gayle sent Siraj to the stand at deep mid-wicket region, before clobbering Umesh for a four and a six in the first and last ball of the 19th over even as Kohli dropped him at long off in the fourth ball.
Needing 10 runs in the last over to complete his century, Gayle fall short by just one despite hitting the last ball for another four.
Spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal (2/33) and Moeen Ali (1/19) and pacer Navdeep Saini (23/0) were the pick of the bowlers, while Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Siraj bleded 42 and 54 runs respectively to hurt RCB.
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