Kings XI Punjab's Chris Gayle (centre) points to his bat after scoring a half-century against Royals Challengers Bangalore in Sharjah on Thursday. - BCCI/IPL
Dubai - Former RCB players KL Rahul, Gayle and Agarwal star for Kings XI Punjab
It couldn't have been any more ironic that 'Bangaloreans' outgunned the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Sharjah.
Kings XI Punjab's top three of openers captain KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, both of whom, who have come up the ranks playing for Karnataka, and the 'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle, combined together to halt the team they were once a part of.
They were the star cast in the comprehensive eight-wicket victory that ended Kings XI Punjab's abysmal run of five straight defeats.
And while the result acted as the defibrillator and got their heartbeat ticking once again and revived their IPL campaign, the manner in which they closed it out was certainly not for the weak-hearted.
Kings XI Punjab's penchant for leaving it late could have almost cost them yet again with them needing two from the final over. And with Gayle run out, it got tense with them needing one from the last ball.
RCB sniffed a chance after what had seemed as good as over for them. But Nicholas Pooran danced down the track and took a tossed up one from Yuzvendra Chahal, on the full and deposited it over Chris Morris stationed at long-on, for a six, to extinguish RCB's sliver of hope of a Super Over.
Preity Zinta, the co-owner of the franchise, dressed in beautiful red, perhaps might have been frantically biting her well manicured nails moments earlier. But she finally heaved a sigh of relief as she let out her trademark million-dollar dimpled smile.
This was only their second win in eight matches and strangely enough, both have come against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
After skipper Virat Kohli had marked his 200th match for the Royal Challengers Bangalore by making 48 from 39 balls with three boundaries and all-rounder Chris Morris had blitzed an eight-ball 25 with three sixes and a boundary, a target of 172 had maybe looked a tall order for Kings XI Punjab.
But not quite though as Rahul and Agarwal, who have played together since the age-group levels, laid a solid foundation with a 78-run stand. Then, the globe-trotting 'Universe Boss' took the cue.
Gayle, for whom it was his first outing this season, smoked five sixes, the same as Rahul, to usher in his 29th IPL half-century. He celebrated it by pointing to his bat which had 'The Boss' on the sticker.
He might have aged but the towering Jamaican showed he can still boss it around. Meanwhile, KL, himself had coasted to his 20th IPL fifty a little earlier with the pair putting on 93 runs for the second wicket.
"Not really nervous. I mean, come on, man it's the Universe Boss batting, how can I be nervous," Gayle said at the post-match presentation.
"The team asked me to do a job at No.3 and it wasn't an issue. The openers have been batting well throughout the tournament and we didn't want to disturb that. Like I said, I was given a job and I took it," added the 41-year-old, who also completed 4500 runs in the IPL.
A relieved Rahul was lost for words. "I don't even have words. We knew that we had to scrap and get over the line once and that would give us the confidence. We are a far better side than the bottom of the table. Towards the end it got too close for comfort but happy that we made it," said Rahul.
Earlier, Kohli became the first cricketer to play 200 matches for a single IPL franchise.
"RCB means a lot, not many understand that emotion," Kohli had said at the toss.
"Two hundred games for them is unbelievable, I wouldn't have believed it in 2008. It is an honour, they have kept me and I have stayed on," the 31-year-old added.
The RCB openers Aaron Finch and Devdutt Padikkal gave them a decent start by putting on 38 runs for the first wicket.
Finch was looking in good touch as he smacked two boundaries and a six in his 18-ball 20, while the left-handed Padikkal hit one four and a six for his 18 from 12 deliveries.
The young Padikkal was caught by Nicholas Pooran off Arshdeep Singh, while leg spinner Murugan Ashwin accounted for Finch and Washington Sundar to leave RCB on 100 for three in 13.3 overs. Kohli was on a 26-ball 34 with the help of three boundaries, while Shivam Dube, who along with Sundar, was surprisingly sent up the order, was on seven.
Dube brought up the tournament's 400th six with a 91-metre hit off Ravi Bishnoi and followed it up with another 76-metred one as the RCB reached 41 sixes in the tournament.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore had been lacking in a bit of direction on a sluggish surface and reached 122 for three in 15 overs. And with Dube, AB de Villiers and Kohli falling soon after, it looked like they would have to settle for a low total.
But Morris' late blitz ensured that they got 49 from the last five overs.
"We had a chat, a message from outside about left-right combination and we wanted to go with it because they had two leggies. Sometimes things don't come off," Kohli said about the thinking behind sending de Villiers at No.6.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 171-6 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 48, Chris Morris 25 not out, Shivam Dube 23, Aaron Finch 20, M Ashwin 2-23, Mohammed Shami 2-45) lost to Kings XI Punjab: 177-2 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 61 not out, Chris Gayle 53, Mayank Agarwal 45) by 8 wickets.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Devdutt Padikkal, Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli (C), AB de Villiers (wk), Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Isuru Udana, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Kings XI Punjab: Chris Gayle, KL Rahul (C) (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh.