It was supposed to be left-handed hatchet man Chris Gayle's party at the HPCA Stadium on Tuesday. But another left-hander, commendably assisted by yet another southpaw, gate-crashed in such stunning, hair-raising fashion that the night became an ode to him, a monument to his legendary powers.
Adam Gilchrist needed one defining knock in IPL 4, one which would make his season and measure up to his stature. It came against table toppers Royal Challengers Bangalore, a blistering 106 off 55 balls which had eight fours and nine sixes, one of which went into the valley past the upper tiers beyond the mid-wicket boundary.
His second IPL ton and his record-shattering second-wicket stand with fellow Aussie Shaun Marsh, worth 206, took Kings XI Punjab to the season's highest 232/2.
And when Gayle was taken out by Ryan Harris for a duck in the second over of the RCB reply as the visitors chased an improbable target, the contest was as good as over. RCB meandered along to 121 all out in 17 overs to lose by a whopping 111 runs. A buoyant Kings XI, who won their fourth game on the trot, stay at fifth in the points table. They are breathing down KKR's neck and you cannot fault them for harbouring high hopes of making the playoffs. They play their last league game against Deccan Chargers on Sunday.
The Gilchrist-Marsh tango was the biggest in all T20 cricket, comfortably overshadowing the 186 Justin Langer and Cameron White put together for Somerset against Gloucestershire in 2006. Marsh (79 not out, 49b, 7x4, 5x6) was more than a good foil for his captain and played his part in the merciless dismantling of the Royal Challengers Bangalore attack.
It was a wet day in Dharamsala with intermittent drizzle threatening to disrupt the match which, thankfully, did not happen. But when the drizzle stopped, it began raining fours and sixes. Such was the ferocity of Gilchrist and Marsh's onslaught that one thought even the Dhauladhar and Shivalik ranges which encircle the scenic HPCA stadium would be quaking in fear.
It helped that RCB rested Zaheer Khan for the game. Without him, the bowling was easy fodder for Gilchrist and Marsh. New-ball bowlers JJ van der Wath and Charles Langeveldt went for 50 and 48 runs respectively while S Aravind and A Mithun too could not stem the tide.