Punjab back to winning ways

CLASSY: K L Rahul’s 47-ball 52 guided KXIP to a challenging total of 182 against Rajasthan Royals in Mohali on Tuesday. AFP

Skipper Ravichandran Ashwin and opener KL Rahul played pivotal roles as Kings XI Punjab produced a superb all-round performance to script a comfortable 12-run win over Rajasthan Royals in an IPL clash to bring their campaign back on track.

Opener Rahul hit a 47-ball 52, while Ashwin (2/24) smashed 17 off four balls in the last over and then took two crucial wickets as KXIP bounced back after successive losses in the last two matches to record their fifth win of the season.

Invited to bat, Rahul, who was named in India’s World Cup squad on Monday, and David Miller (40 off 27) shared an 85-run stand to lay the foundation.

Ashwin then smashed a four and successive sixes in the last over to put KXIP in a strong position. The hosts then returned to restrict Rajasthan to 170 for seven, courtesy some superb bowling by Ashwin and Murugan Ashwin (1/24) in the middle overs after Arshdeep Singh’s maiden two IPL wickets.

Mohammad Shami was expensive but came good in the final overs, scalping two wickets.

Fourth spot

After this win, KXIP Punjab grabbed the fourth spot in the points table with 10 points to keep play-offs hopes alive.

However, it was Rajasthan’s sixth loss and they will need to pull up their socks if they have to salvage any hopes of making it to the knockout stage. Defending the total, KXIP dismissed the big-hitting Jos Buttler (23) early as Rajasthan reached 55 in the first six overs.

Opener Rahul Tripathi (50) and Sanju Samson (27 off 21) added 59 runs to take Rajasthan close to the 100-mark.

R Ashwin produced the breakthrough with a carrom ball in the 12th over when he cleaned up Samson, who looked to play a sweep shot.

Needing 66 off last six overs, Tripathi completed his fifty in 44 balls before being caught at long-off boundary by Agarwal off R Ashwin.

Australian Ashton Turner’s IPL debut ended with a first-ball naught, while Jofra Archer was sent back by Shami as RR slumped to 133 for five in 17.1 overs.

Stuart Binny scored a quickfire 11-ball 33 but it was not enough as Rahane too was dismissed in pursuit of quick runs.

Earlier in-form Rahul played a controlled innings after he lost his opening partner Chris Gayle (30) before powerplay.

Gayle hit three sixes and two boundaries before being sent back by Archer as KXIP were 39/1 at the end of the powerplay.

Mayank Agarwal, who walked in after Gayle’s fall, looked dangerous but failed to last long. He made 26 of 12 balls and was claimed by RR’s New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi as Punjab slipped to 67 for two.

Rahul then steadied the ship with Miller, who came into the side due to the last-minute ankle injury to Australian all-rounder Moises Henriques.

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