Cricket news - Stokes and Samson trump Gayle as Royals stay alive

Ben Stokes scored a 24-ball half-century in chase.

Ben Stokes scored a 24-ball half-century in chase.

Rajasthan Royals ended Kings XI Punjab's five-match winning streak, making easy work of a chase of 186. Led by Ben Stokes, who hit 50 off 26 at the top, the Royals line-up clicked in unison with Steve Smith and Jos Buttler completing formalities in rapid fashion to seal a seven-wicket win with 15 balls to spare. RR are now up to fifth on the points table, tied with KXIP on 12 points.

Batting will get easier in the second innings, said Chris Gayle...Did it?

The Universe Boss knows best, and it's why Steve Smith opted to chase at the toss. The wicket was stopping a bit in the first six overs, but it didn't stop RR from a free-flowing start. Stokes gave them the perfect one as he found the boundaries with relative ease. Glenn Maxwell could've returned Stokes a favour had he held on to a catch at mid-on that was eerily similar to the one that the England all-rounder had taken to send Mandeep Singh back in the first innings. Stokes made the most of the reprieve and followed up his century from the previous game with a fifty, as RR cruised to 66/1 at the end of the powerplay, setting up the chase perfectly.

Wait...let's get back to the Gaylestorm in Abu Dhabi first

Jofra Archer once again struck in the opening over of the game, bouncing Mandeep who was bamboozled by a quick delivery at the body. Gayle was biding his time until he cut loose, becoming the first player to hit 1000 T20 sixes. Archer had conceded just 6 runs in his two overs, in which he bowled just the one ball to Gayle. Whether Archer could've been given an additional over at stage is debatable, but he wasn't. Smith only bowled his spinners for a combined four overs all innings, given how Gayle feasts on leggies.

However, Gayle didn't hold back against the pacers either as KL Rahul took a backseat in the 120-run stand for the second wicket. Gayle was handed a couple of lives off some tough chances, which he made RR pay for. They, however, pulled things back between overs 7 to 10 where just 18 runs were scored.

How did they reach a total of 180-plus then?

Through Gayle, of course. He would've even gotten another IPL century, but instead added a second score of 99 in the IPL. Just 25 of Gayle's runs came on the offside, with as many as 40 coming through mid-wicket. His innings comprised of eight sixes and four boundaries as KXIP finished with 185, although they would've felt they finished 20 short. Stokes though, bowled his four overs today after quite sometime, returning 2-32.

Coming back to how RR went about the chase...

It was probably a panic-driven call to bowl Murugan Ashwin in the PowerPlay given that RR had hit 32 runs off the first three. Stokes, however, ensured the plan backfired, dispatching M. Ashwin for successive sixes in a 16-run over. Stokes brought on his fifty off 24 balls with a six off Chris Jordan within the powerplay, but fell two balls later, much to KXIP's relief. Dew didn't help their cause with the ball even being difficult to hold on to in the latter half.

How did RR stay in control of the chase thereafter?

Scoring at 11 an over in the powerplay helped them stay ahead in the contest. Uthappa, in that opening stand, had faced just 8 balls while Stokes struck at almost 200. Samson's intent didn't do much harm, dispatching Jordan to the boundary with his second ball. With Stokes back in the hut, Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi bowled in tandem once the field restrictions were off, keeping RR in check. Ashwin exploited Robin Uthappa's struggle against legspinners and sent him back, as the two collectively conceded 68 in 7 overs, forcing Rahul to go back to his pacers. By that stage, however, RR were well in control of the chase with Samson among the runs once again with a 25-run 48 before being run-out. The Royals needed just 44 in 6 overs.

Samson fell, but RR didn't panic...

KXIP were still in the game at the 16th over. However, Buttler's six off Jordan brought the equation down to 30 in four overs after which it was Smith's turn to take over. Until then the skipper was 15 off 14, up against one of the best desth bowlers in the tournament - Mohammed Shami. He missed his intended length by just inches and was lofted over mid off off for a boundary. The next received similar treatment too as 19 came off that Shami over as RR were nearly there. Buttler finished off the chase with a six with their win giving their NRR a boost at a crucial stage in the tournament with it being wide open at the moment.

Where do they go from here?

Both teams are still in with a chance. RR have their last league game against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday, while KXIP are up against CSK on the same day.

Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 185/4 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 46, Chris Gayle 99; Jofra Archer 2-26, Ben Stokes 2-32) lost to Rajasthan Royals 186/3 in 17.3 overs (Ben Stokes 50, Sanju Samson 48) by seven wickets.