Indore: KL Rahul smashed a classy unbeaten half-century after young off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s exploits with the ball to guide Kings XI Punjab to a comfortable six wicket win over laggards Rajasthan Royals in an Indian Premier League match here on Sunday night.
Chasing a modest 153 run target, Rahul anchored Kings XI’s innings from start to finish, scoring 84 off just 54 balls with the help of seven boundaries and three sixes to guide his side home with eight balls to spare.
Kings XI’s chase, however, started on a bad note as they lost dangerous Chris Gayle (8) and Mayank Agarwal (2) in successive overs.
While Gayle cut Jofra Archer straight to Sanju Samson at point in the fourth over, Agarwal pulled a short delivery from Ben Stokes to Rahul Tripathi at long leg.
Then Rahul and Karun Nair (31) shared a 50-run stand for the third wicket off just 37 balls to stabilise Kings XI’s chase before the latter dragged Anureet Singh’s short delivery back onto his stumps as Kings XI were reduced to 79 for three.
Axar Patel (4) too didn’t last long as he lofted Ksishnappa Gowtham straight to D’Arcy Shot at deep midwicket.
But Rahul went about his business calmly and guided Kings XI’s chase by holding on to the fort from one side.
Rahul mixed caution with aggression and didn’t went for any extravagant shots. He punished the bad deliveries that came his way.
Rahul brought up his fifty in the 17th over with an upper cut six off Archer to bring down the equation to 27 runs off 18 balls.
Rahul and Marcus Stoinis (23 not out) shared unconquered 68 runs for the fifth wicket to comfortably take Kings XI past the winning margin and enable their side climb up to the third spot in the points table.
Earlier, Mujeeb led an impressive bowling display from Kings XI to restrict struggling Rajasthan to a modest 152 for nine. Mujeeb (3/27) struck in the first two deliveries of the 15th over, first removing dangerous -looking Buttler and then Archer to stand in with a chance of registering a hat-trick.
But it didn’t come as he bowled a wide delivery in the next ball.
However, Mujeeb’s exploits were enough to keep Rajasthan in check as Kings XI kept on losing wickets at regular intervals from the start after being sent into bat.
Besides Mujeeb, Andrew Tye (2/24), Axar Patel (1/21), skipper Ravichandran Ashwin (1/30) and Ankit Rajpoot (1/37) were the other wicket-takers for Kings XI.
Opening the batting, Buttler scored 51 off 39 balls with the help of seven boundaries to anchor Rajasthan innings but just when it was time for him to accelerate he nicked a Mujeeb delivery to Rahul behind the stumps.
To make matters worse for Rajasthan, Mujeeb cleaned up new man Archer with a googly in the next delivery to stand on the verge of a hat-trick.
Mujeeb also accounted for dangerous Stokes (12) who was brilliantly caught by a joint effort from Agarwal and Manoj Tiwary at the long-off boundary.
Earlier asked to bat, Rajasthan did not have a great start as they lost opener D’Arcy Short (2) and skipper Ajinkya Rahane (5) early before Buttler and Sanju Samson (28) stitched 49 runs for the third wicket to stabilise the innings.
Towards the end, Shreyas Gopal played a 16-ball 24-run cameo but it was not enough to take Rajasthan to a good total.