The race for the playoffs remains wide open at the IPL. A magnificent chase by Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday ensured that.
Steve Smith’s men won by seven wickets with 15 balls to spare. They have now 12 points, the same as KXIP and Kolkata Knight Riders.
It was a combined effort from the side’s top-order that saw it through, as it reached the target of 186 with remarkable ease.
Chris Gayle’s 99 (63b, 6×4, 8×6) had given KXIP a competitive total after being put in to bat, but fine innings from Robin Uthappa (30, 23b, 1×4, 2×6), Ben Stokes (50, 26b, 6×4, 3×6), Sanju Samson (48, 25b, 4×4, 3×6) and Smith (31 not out, 20b, 5×4) took RR to a memorable victory.
Setting the tone
It was perhaps as accomplished a chase as any seen in this tournament, as the RR batsmen made sure that they were ahead of the asking rate. The tone was set by Stokes, whose unbeaten hundred had given the team the badly-needed win against Mumbai Indians in the last match.
His fifty came off just 24 balls, lofting his England teammate Chris Jordan over long-off. A ball later, however, he played straight to Deepak Hooda at mid-off, as he failed to generate enough power.
Robin Uthappa (30, 23b, 1×4, 2×6) too was shaping up well before he fell to Murugan Ashwin. After slog-sweeping the leg-spinner beautifully over deep mid-wicket for a six, he attempted a similar shot only to be well caught near the boundary by Nicholas Pooran.
Sanju Samson (48, 25b, 4×4, 3×6) looked in great touch, as he played some delectable shots square off the wickets, before he was run out — by a direct hit from substitute fielder J. Suchith.
Earlier, the 41-year-old Gayle showed he still remained the ‘Universal Boss’ of T20 cricket with some astonishing hits. He may have fallen one shot of a seventh IPL hundred – played on to Jofra Archer – but he reached another amazing milestone; his seventh six was his 1,000th in T20 cricket.
But this match would be remembered more for the way RR responded when it was in another must-win situation.
Gayle is the first batsman to hit 1000 sixes in T20s.