In the end, it turned out to be an easy chase of 186 runs for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab as they managed to halt the juggernaut of their rival in the second half of the season who was on the verge of 6th consecutive win. The comprehensive win by a margin of 7 wickets in Abu Dhabi has not only given Royals another day to fight but made the points table evenly poised.
Superfast start by Royals
The RR openers Robin Uthappa and Ben Stokes added 60 runs in just 33 balls with English all-rounder making 50 off just 26 balls with 3 sixes and 6 fours.
“He is a valuable player. One of the best in the world. You are always talking to players and trying to get the best of them. We know if he spends time in the middle, he will come good,” said RR skipper Smith after the match in his chat with the host broadcaster.
Stokes’ another match-winning knock
Stokes’s innings can be better understood by the fact that he is the first RR batsman to score a fifty within the Powerplay overs this season.
“I think when you are in a position like we are, you have nothing to lose. We are still hanging in. That is pleasing. The sixes are always pleasing. I went in the same mentality like I did against MI. Wanted to go hard with the new ball,” said Ben Stokes after getting his back to back Man of the Match award in this season.
And, when Stokes got out then Sanju Samson managed to sustain the same pace of scoring like his colleague by scoring 48 runs off just 25 balls with same number of sixes(3) and 4 fours.
Skipper Steven Smith (31 off 20) and Jos Buttler (22 off 11) guided the chase like consummate professionals and now they have joined Punjab with 12 points on the table although KXIP is still among top-4 because of superior net run rate.
“Team motto is that we can win from anywhere in any situation. From one perspective if you see we got nothing to lose, so just go for it,” explained Uthappa after the match.
Except the leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi (4 overs and 27 runs and no wicket) all the KXIP bowlers not failed to take wickets when the team needed most, they also proved very expensive.
Consistent hostile Archer
Earlier in the evening, Royals pacer Jofra Archer was at his usual best with 4 overs 26 runs and 2 wickets and that included the dismissal of Mandeep Singh for a duck which can be termed as the ball of the tournament. Stokes too picked 2 wickets for 32 runs in his four overs but it was the Orange Cup holder KL Rahul’s sedate 46 off 41 which may have affected Punjab in setting up a formidable total.
Gayle’s party was spoiled
Chris Gayle missed his century by a run (99 off just 63 balls with 8 sixes and 6 fours but celebrated the feat of becoming the first man to hit 1000 sixes in T20 cricket. However, Royals were lucky that a well-set Gayle didn’t get to play enough balls in the death overs as KXIP could score only 62 runs in this phase and Gayle faced only 16 deliveries. This certainly helped RR in chasing a much smaller total.
(Vimal Kumar is a senior sports journalist who has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.)