Mumbai: In-form Jos Buttler hit his fifth successive half-century as Rajasthan Royals thrashed Mumbai Indians by seven wickets in a key Indian Premier League (IPL) clash to stay alive in the playoffs race on Sunday.
Royals chased 169 on a difficult Wankhede wicket and Buttler batted with a lot of responsibility. The Briton added 95 runs for the second wicket with captain Ajinkya Rahane (37 off 36) as he carried his bat to steer his side past the finish line.
While other batsmen struggled to time the ball, Buttler did it with remarkable ease as he punished the home bowlers with five sixes and nine fours in his entertaining 53-ball 94.
Playing big shots is not Rahane's strength but he struggled to rotate the strike. However, Butter kept the asking rate under control with his tremendous hitting.
After Rahane's dismissal, Buttler added 61 runs with Sanju Samson, who chipped in with a useful cameo of 26 runs as Royals overhauled the target with 12 balls to spare.
Buttler finished the match in style, launching one from Hardik Pandya deep into the stands.
The win has lifted Rajasthan Royals from sixth position to fifth with 12 points, behind Kolkata Knight Riders (12) and Kings XI Punjab (12).
Caribbean batsman Evin Lewis had smashed a 42-ball 60 before Hardik Pandya produced a quick-fire 36 to push the hosts to 168 for six after being invited to bat.
It was difficult to time the ball on the wicket and it required immense physical strength to clear the boundary ropes. Lewis batted smartly as he opened his arms only after building his innings steadily after being dropped early in his innings.
Lewis added 87 runs with fellow opener Suryakumar Yadav (38 off 31) who was also dropped on nine by the Royals fielders. Lewis hit four sixes and as many fours in his innings.
West Indies' paceman Jofra Archer produced an excellent bowling performance to put the hosts under pressure. He conceded only 16 runs from his four overs and dismissed Lewis and Suryakumar and Rohit Sharma (0) in successive balls.
He used the bounce available in the pitch, hit the deck hard and bowled straight into the batsmen, hardly giving any room to open their arms.
The hosts were struggling badly at one stage, failing to capitalise a good start, but Pandya came up with his blistering knock just in time to propel them. He hit three fours and two sixes in his 21-ball knock.
Earlier, Archer troubled Lewis with bounce and created a catching chance but Stuart Binny could not hold on to the ball, which went up miles in the air. The Caribbean was on five then.
Suryakumar, who was also dropped on nine by Gowtham, though had adjusted to the bounce and negotiated both spinners and pacers nicely, playing confident drives.
The fluffed chances allowed Mumbai Indians to come out of powerplay overs unscathed and with 51 runs on the board.
With no success coming, Ajinkya Rahane employed new bowlers, Shreyas Gopal and Jaydev Unadkat, to the job but Suryakumar continued to find the odd boundary as he swung his arms, when the room was there.
The wicket was such that the batsmen could not set the field on fire. The home openers batted smartly to work the ball around and kept the scoreboard moving. Till the eighth over, no six was hit.
Lewis broke the shackles by lofting Gopal for consecutive sixes in the ninth over.
A desperate Rahane brought back Archer and he not only provided the Royals the breakthrough by getting rid of Suryakumar but dealt a massive blow to the hosts by dismissing rival captain Rohit Sharma (0) in the next ball.
Lewis raised his fifty with a six off Gowtham and also launched Dhawal Kulkarni for a six but the paceman stopped him in his tracks soon.