K.L. Rahul cuts loose, anchors Kings XI to six-wicket win

After two straight losses, this victory takes Kings to the third spot; Royals, with a hat-trick of defeats, remains at the bottom.

K.L. Rahul in action against Rajasthan Royals at the Holkar Stadium in Indore on Sunday.   -  AFP

One of the fascinating features of this Indian Premier League has been Ravichandran Ashwin’s captaincy. His tactics helped Kings XI Punjab restrict Rajasthan Royals to a modest total of 152 before K.L. Rahul came up with another superb innings to guide the Kings home by six wickets at the Holkar Stadium here on Sunday.

After two straight losses, this victory took Kings to the third spot. Royals, on the other hand, finds itself remaining at the bottom after a hat-trick of defeats.

Rahane’s men must have known that they would have to create history when Ashwin put them in. No IPL match had been won here batting first.

 

It was Rahul who ensured that the record remained intact with his unbeaten 84 off 54 balls. The only other Kings batsman to go beyond 30 was Karun Nair.

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Rahul had suffered an anxious moment when he was on 41. Sanju Samson’s diving catch at point off a much-improved Jaydev Unadkat had to be reviewed several times by the TV umpire before he was given not out.

There was no stopping Rahul after that.

Earlier, it wasn’t the best of starts for the Royals. Ashwin removed D’Arcy Short with the third ball of the innings. Short’s attempt to hit Aswhin out of the ground only went as far as Andrew Tye at mid-on. Rahane didn’t last long either; he was smartly picked up by Chris Gayle, diving forward at backward point, off Axar Patel.

At 35-2, Royals needed a good partnership from Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson, the in-form players. They added 49 before Samson, not for the first time in this tournament, perished pulling a short ball, as he sent Tye straight down to the throat of Karun at deep square-leg.

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That brought to the wicket the most expensive player of this IPL, but Ben Stokes could make only 12 before he became the victim of a superb joint effort at long off. Mayank Agarwal caught the ball showing exceptional judgment and, before he went over rope, relayed it safely to Manoj Tiwary.

Then Buttler, who reached his second successive fifty, was dismissed by the mysterious tweaker from Afghanistan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The Englishman’s endeavor to cut was neatly picked up behind the stumps by Rahul. Mujeeb’s next ball was a beauty, as it spun sharply in to clean up Jofra Archer.

Shreyas Gopal, who scored a 16-ball 24, ensured Royals lasted the full 20 overs.

Mujeeb was the pick of the bowlers.