Royals join mid-table race with win over Kings XI Punjab

Kings XI Punjab’s K Rahul was in imperious form with an unbeaten knock of 95 which however came in a losing cause as they failed to overhaul Rajasthan Royals score of 158-8.

(IPL) Match 40 of VIVO IPL 2018 between the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab was pretty much a rerun of the previous encounter between the two teams. Except on this occasion, the result was different; Rajasthan Royals prevailed, defeating KXIP by 15 runs at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. The result meant RR lifted off from the floor of the table and joined the mid-table race, while KXIP kept their third place, but lost a few decimal points in the net run rate.

In the evening, the RR captain Ajinkya Rahane won a crucial toss and had no hesitation in opting to bat. On a surface that looked dry and was expected to offer turn as the match progressed, Jos Buttler set the tone for his team, but there was little else of note from the rest of the batsmen. Buttler raced to 45 in the first six overs, and RR were comfortably placed at 63-1 at the end of the powerplay. Then the deceleration; Buttler too slowed down, and none of the other batsmen could get a grip on the proceedings. RR scored at just about a run-a-ball in the middle overs, and lost their way in the final five – adding 38 runs for the loss of five wickets. Buttler’s 82 would be the top-score of the innings and his 53-run partnership with Sanju Samson (22 from 18 balls) for the third wicket would be the biggest of the match. RR finished their twenty overs at 158-8.

For Kings XI Punjab, KL Rahul waged a lone battle; he carried on from his unbeaten 84 in the previous meeting, this time improving on that and posting his highest score in the IPL. But even his unbeaten 95 wasn’t sufficient to take his team to a win. Just how dismal KXIP’s batting was can be established from the fact that the second-best score in their innings was Marcus Stoinis’ 11.

Butter was free-flowing at the top; he found the boundaries with ease against pace and spin alike. After collecting two boundaries off Marcus Stoinis in the first over, he hit Axar Patel for a fourthrough extra cover and executed an inside-out shot over cover for a six – in the second over. He then collected two boundaries off Mohit Sharma – with a pull shot through midwicket and then two overs later with a deft glide through the slip cordon. Andrew Tye was hit for consecutive boundaries in the sixth – first through mid-on and then through covers.

The RR opener brought up his half-century – third consecutive score of fifty or more – in the eighth over, needing only 27 balls to get to the milestone. Thereafter though, with the pitch slowing down and spinners doing their thing, he struggled to force the pace. Buttler eventually perished in the seventeenth over when he attempted to break the shackles, but was outsmarted by Mujeeb ur Rahman and was stumped. He made 82, and his 58-ball knock contained nine fours and a six.

KL Rahul was outstanding yet again. If most of his earlier knocks were about flying starts, on Tuesday night it was about application, and acceleration at the end. Rahul played a few handsome starts early on, but reined himself in subsequently, and brought up his half-century off 48 balls. And then right at the end – in the last couple of overs, he exploded; in the nineteenth, over he collected three consecutive boundaries off Jofra Archer – two of those shots could only be played by a batsman in supreme confidence. In the final over, he hit JaydevUnadkat for a six over cover to bring up his highest score in the IPL, and finished off with two boundaries off the last two balls of the match. Rahul finished with 95 runs against his name, and his knock contained 11 fours and two sixes.

For the Rajasthan Royals, the two spinners were excellent. K Gowtham (3-0-12-2) and Ish Sodhi (4-0-14-1) strangled the visitors with disciplined bowling; it helped that they got appreciable turn off the surface. Gowtham fired one down the leg-side and had Chris Gayle stumped, and two balls later castled Ravichandran Ashwin – the ball turning big and sneaking in between bat and pad and hitting leg-stump. Sodhi maintained the pressure by bowling 12 dot balls in his spell, and returned with the wicket of Akshdeep Nath, whose attempted heave landed in the hands of long-off.

Mujeeb ur Rahman was sensational yet again; KXIP’s mystery spinner, smartly introduced into the attack only in the tenth over, returned figures of 4-0-21-2. The teenager’s victims were the two well-set batsmen: Buttler outsmarted by a deliberately fired leg-side wide, and Sanju Samson, who was caught at long-on.

Andrew Tye overcame the difficult situation of a bereavement of a close family member to finish with figures of 4-0-34-4. In his first over, he accounted for the dismissal of Ajinkya Rahane with a knuckle ball, and then finished off on a high picking up three wickets – two of them with the knuckle ball – bowling the 20th over of the innings.

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