Rajasthan Royals jump to second place, play-off berth in sight

Mohali, May 9 (IANS) Rajasthan Royals almost assured themselves of a play-off berth in the Indian Premier League (IPL) after they defeated Kings XI Punjab by eight wickets at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here Thursday.

Chasing a target of 146, Ajinkya Rahane struck a fine unbeaten 59, his second consecutive half-century, and the young Sanju Samson remained not out on 47 to guide Rajasthan Royals to 147 for two with an over to spare.

Put in, a 102-run partnership between skipper Adam Gilchrist (42) and his compatriot Shaun Marsh (77) set the foundation of a big total for Kings XI. But they suffered a batting collapse losing five wickets for 41 runs and managed 145 for six in 20 overs.

Pacer Kevon Cooper did most of the damage in the death overs with his three for 23 and was also adjudged Man of the Match.

With the loss, Kings XI’s play-off chances are almost bleak while Rajasthan Royals jumped to the second place with 18 points from 13 matches. Kings XI Punjab have 10 points from 12 matches.

While chasing, Rajasthan lost skipper Rahul Dravid (4) early in the second over to left spinner Bipul Sharma (1/21), who sent one through bat and pad to rattle the stumps.

Kings XI needed some quick wickets, to make the most of Dravid’s early dismissal. But Rahane and Shane Watson (31) then forged a 66-run stand for the second wicket to take the match away from them.

Watson struck three fours and a six during his 25-ball innings that came to an end in the 10th over after he was castled by leggie Piyush Chawla.

With another 73 runs needed to win from 10 overs, Rahane and the 18-year-old Samson went about scoring runs in business-like fashion.

Rajasthan needed 48 runs from the last six overs, but Rahane and Samson didn’t panic. Samson eased the pressure with a four off Bipul straight over his head in the 15th over and in the next over the youngster tapped away a full toss from Praveen Kumar through mid-wicket for another easy four.

With 29 needed from four overs, Samson guided Awana for a delicately executed four through the third man for a four and Rahane spanked the bowler for a six in the last ball.

Samson displayed great nerves as he finished off the match in style with a six and a four as Rajasthan reached home with a ball to spare.

Earlier, lanky offie Ajit Chandila (1/24) put Kings XI on the backfoot in the third delivery after taking an easy catch off his own bowling to get rid of opener Mandeep Singh.

Comeback man Gilchrist struck form with a 32-ball 42 hitting six fours while fellow Australia Marsh hit six fours and two sixes in his 64-ball 77. They were the only two Kings XI batsmen who could get to double figures.

Kings XI bowlers bowled in the last five overs, giving away just 38 runs. Cooper, who got Gilchrist in the 14th over, did most of the damage by removing Marsh and David Miller (8) in three deliveries in the penultimate over.

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