Rajasthan remains in playoff hunt with win over Kings XI

Rajasthan Royals' batting line-up failed to live up to potential once again, but the bowling and catching stood out and helped seal a 15-run victory.

Jos Buttler's 58-ball 82 helped Rajasthan Royals reach eight for 158, a total which proved to be match-winning on a sluggish Jaipur pitch.   -  AFP

Rajasthan Royals bowlers covered up for misfiring batsmen to successfully defend 158 at a packed Sawai Mansingh stadium and keep the playoff hopes alive. Kings XI Punjab managed only 143 runs in 20 overs, with K. L. Rahul making an unbeaten 95.

Rajasthan Royals, which made three changes to its line-up from the previous match, pushed Krishnappa Gowtham to number three in search of quick runs after the early exit of captain Rahane. The bold move paid off with the all-rounder flexing arms and partner Buttler playing the lead role. KXIP bowlers were taken for plenty of runs in the Powerplay overs, but struck through Marcus Stoinis, who dismissed Gowtham.

As it happened

Buttler’s rapidfire hitting helped him ease past half-century in 27 balls and with Sanju Samson taking guard at the other end, bowlers had work to be done. Skipper Ashwin came on in the eighth over and Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s introduction in the 10th over resulted in an engrossing contest in the middle between slow bowlers and strokeplayers. The noisy crowd packing the stands at Sawai Mansingh stadium roared in appreciation as the brisk scoring resulted in 100 coming off 12.3 overs.

Samson, a crowd favourite here, went on the charge in Ashwin’s third over, making good use of the crease to collect 13 runs. Two flashes of brilliance from Samson got the fans roaring in anticipation. Mujeeb induced an ambitious shot and KXIP celebrated Samson’s exit after making an 18-ball 22. Buttler got a reprieve on 82, but did not last long enough to celebrate.

Stuart Binny and Ben Stokes fell without adding many to the total. Mohit Sharma gave away five runs in the 19th overs, while the spin ace from Afganisthan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, shone again, taking two for 21. Andrew Tye benefitted from the batsmen looking to score heavily in the slog overs to finish with four for 34.

Lokesh Rahul’s defiant knock kept the visitor in the game until the 17th over. Jofra Archer, (4-0-32-1) and Jaydev Unadkat (4-0-36-1) kept him in check, though the opener carried the bat for the second match in a row. K. Gowtham (3-0-12-2) had given Rajasthan the early initiative with the ball by taking the wickets of Chris Gayle and R. Ashwin, who too walked in at No. 3. Buttler effected a stumping and run-out.

Gowtham lit the spark with two stunning strikes. He read Chris Gayle’s mind as the West Indian stepped out for a slog, sent the ball down the leg-side for Buttler whip off the bails. The former beat R. Ashwin in the air for his second wicket, leaving the rival dugout shocked by the after-effects of the captain’s move up into a pinch-hitter role.

The urge to cash in on field restrictions in Powerplay overs forced Karun Nair to walk down the danger path, mistiming a slog and watching Jaydev Unadkat track the swirling ball under the floodlights and complete the catch falling on his back. Ajinkya Rahane pulled off a diving catch at cover to send back Manoj Tiwary as Kings XI's wickets kept tumbling and, with no meaningful partnerships at any stage, it struggle to get close to Rajasthan's eight for 158 batting first.