Abu Dhabi: Star England all-rounder Ben Stokes stole the limelight from Chris Gayle as Rajasthan Royals clicked as a unit to beat Kings XI Punjab by seven wickets and stay afloat in the Indian Premier League here on Friday.
Stokes hit a 26-ball 50 and also claimed two wickets to emerge as the star performer for his team. Earlier, Gayle had smashed a 63-ball 99 to power KXIP to 185 for four but it went in vain.
Chasing 186 for a win, RR overhauled the target in 17.3 overs with Stokes top-scoring with a magnificent 26-ball 50. Sanju Samson was also equally impressive during his knock of 48 from 25 balls.
Opener Robin Uthappa contributed 30, while captain Steve Smith, who has been struggling for form, and Jos Buttler remained not out on 31 and 22 respectively to take RR home and snap KXIP’s five-match winning streak.
RR’s collective batting effort ensured that KXIP batsman Chris Gayle’s superb 99 went in vain. During his knock, the West Indies batsman had taken his tally of sixes to 1001 in his glorious T20 career.
With the win, their sixth in 13 matches, RR kept themselves alive for a spot in the play-offs with 12 points with one game left. Despite the loss, KXIP also remained in contention with 12 points from 13 matches.
RR made an explosive start to their run chase with Stokes and Uthappa stitching 60 runs inside powerplay. Stokes was in magnificent form during his short innings as he got the boundaries with ease.
The star England all-rounder hit Murugan Ashwin for two sixes and a four to take 16 runs from the fourth over. He reached his fifty off 24 balls when he hoisted Chris Jordan for a six in the sixth over. But Jordan got his revenge by removing Stokes two balls later.
RR were still cruising ahead at 66 for 1 at the end of powerplay and with Samson firing on all cylinders, they went past the 100-run mark in the 10th over. The fireworks were halted after Uthappa fell in the 11th over to Ashwin but RR were in complete control with the asking rate less than seven runs an over with seven wickets in hand.
Earlier, Gayle continued his menacing form, smashing a 63-ball 99 to steer Punjab to 185 for 4 after being put in to bat. Gayle and captain KL Rahul (46) took the RR bowlers to the cleaners, stitching 120 runs for the second wicket in 13.4 overs to help KXIP post a challenging total.
Nicholas Pooran played a late cameo of 22 off just 10 deliveries with the help of three sixes.
Gayle, who had four boundaries and eight sixes in his explosive innings, was out just two balls before the end of the innings and he showed his disappointment of missing out on a hundred by throwing down his bat.
KXIP lost their first wicket in the opening over itself when Mandeep Singh got dismissed for a first-ball duck with Ben Stokes taking a brilliant diving catch off an equally superb delivery by Archer.
But Gayle and Rahul maintained a high scoring rate, reaching 53 for 1 at the end of powerplay. The self-styled ‘Universe Boss’ smacked two fours and six in consecutive deliveries off pacer Kartik Tyagi.
Gayle reached his third fifty in six matches in this IPL in style, hitting a six off Rahul Tewati in the 11th over as KXIP cruised along to reach the 100-run mark in the 13th over.
Stokes finally got the breakthrough by getting rid of tournament’s top run-getter Rahul in the 15th over to put brakes on KXIP innings.