All-star of the match

KL Rahul has struggled to break into India's T20I side despite performing impressively whenever he's had an opportunity, largely because the batsmen he's replaced have slotted back in when available. At Kings XI Punjab, though, he's the designated wicketkeeper and is guaranteed to start in every single game, barring injuries.

While that thought may be comforting enough, there's no better way to nail down your spot than by delivering on the field. On that front, Rahul hammered in the first nail by smashing the IPL's fastest half-century - off just 14 balls - in an innings that proved you don't need to be a basher of cricket balls like Chris Gayle or Aaron Finch, two other contenders to open the batting for Kings XI this season, to score at a blinding pace.

The 2016 season marked the arrival of Rahul the T20 batsman. Batting mostly at No. 4, he made 397 runs, largely playing second fiddle to Virat Kohli in a season where Royal Challengers Bangalore finished runners-up. As has been the story of his career, an untimely injury arrived, and shoulder surgery kept him on the sidelines through all of the 2017 season. Now, playing for his third franchise, Rahul has already justified his INR 11 crore price tag.

The wow moment

Rahul was on 27 off 9 balls when Amit Mishra began the third over of Kings XI's innings. He would reach his half-century off the fifth ball of the over, galloping to the landmark by going 4, 6, 6, 4, 4. The first hit, a sweetly-timed inside-out stroke over extra cover, set the tone for what was to follow. The shot he played off the third ball, however, was the most eye-catching. With Mishra firing the ball in, Rahul, looking to sweep, fell over just a touch as he got down on one knee. No balance, no problem. His hand-eye coordination still allowed him to go through with the shot and send the ball sailing well beyond the backward square leg boundary. The shot told you two things: how closely he watched the ball, and how he went through with the shot despite his slip.

The numbers

  • Rahul's half-century was the third-fastest in all T20 cricket. Only Yuvraj Singh (12 balls, against England at the World T20 in 2007), Chris Gayle (12 balls, for Melbourne Renegades against Adelaide Strikers in 2016) and Marcus Trescothick (13 balls, for Somerset against Hampshire in 2010) are ahead of him in the list.
  • While he was at the crease, the other Kings XI batsmen scored 13 off 13. Rahul scored 24 off six balls from Mishra, 16 off seven from Trent Boult and 11 off three from Mohammed Shami. This pegged his Smart Strike Rate at an astounding 513.63

The reaction

"For years, I've been branded a Test cricketer. It's good for me to be up there, creating history and breaking records. Hope to continue this way."
KL Rahul on changing perceptions

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo