An impressive show by the Rajasthan Royals bowlers kept the side alive in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as they defeated Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) by 15 runs at Jaipur's Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Tuesday.
It was the hosts' bowlers who helped their side defend a moderate 158-run total against the third-placed Punjab side.
Despite hunting a chaseable total, seven of the Punjab batsman didn't even touch double digits and it was only their opener KL Rahul, who single-handedly fought till the last ball of the match, slamming an unbeaten 95 off 70 balls, laced with 11 fours and couple of sixes.
Punjab were off to a poor start as off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham struck twice in the second over to send a dangerous Chris Gayle (1) and skipper Ravichandran Ashwin (0) back with the visitors having managed to reach just 14 runs.
Punjab's situation worsened as Jofra Archer dismissed an in-form Karun Nair (3) to leave the visitors reeling at 17/3.
Akshdeep Nath (9) then joined Rahul to add 26 runs for the fourth wicket, taking Punjab to 45 runs. However, just when the combination was settling down, Ish Sodhi struck to make the damage bigger after dismissing Nath in the ninth over.
Manoj Tiwary and Rahul then tried to repair the damage but once again their efforts went in vain as Tiwary gave an easy catch to Ajinkya Rahane off a Ben Stokes delivery in the 12th over.
Despite wickets falling at regular intervals, Rahul kept one end secure but lacked support from the others.
Axar Patel (9) too failed to show any fight and departed in the 14th over after adding 15 runs with the opener to take his side to 81 runs.
Meanwhile, Rahul bought up his fourth fifty of the season in the same over.
With the issue going to the final over with Punjab needing 32 runs, Marcus Stoinis (11) departed while trying to go for a maximum off Jaydev Unadkat.
Rahul tried his best to take his side home, smashing 14 runs of the final over, which was, however, not good enough as the visitors could only manage to reach 143 runs, losing seven wickets.
For the hosts, Gowtham emerged with impressive figures of 2/12 off his three overs while Archer, Unadkat, Stokes and Sodhi bagged a wicket each.
"(The) bowling unit was fantastic. Chasing 157, credit to our bowlers, especially in the powerplay. That stage was crucial, getting two-three initial wickets. And Ish Sodhi, fantastic. Our intention was to pick wickets, and keeping an attacking field help(ed) us. Gowtham bowled really well, and then the Ashwin wicket as well. Overall, bowling unit was fantastic,” said Rajasthan skipper Rahane during the post-match presentation ceremony.
“Unadkat is important, good to have a left-arm pacer. His cutters are useful on slower surfaces. Sometimes you may go four overs for 40, but the good thing is he always thinks about wickets,” he added.
Earlier, Punjab's Andrew Tye (4/34) came with a clinical bowling show to restrict Rajasthan Royals to 158/8.
Rajasthan would not have even crossed the 100-run mark but thanks to a blistering 58-ball 82 by opener Jos Buttler they were propelled to a moderate total.
Opting to bat, Rajasthan were off to a quick start, accumulating 35 runs in the first three overs.
“Really happy, the way we played. I thought 160 was good, but the wicket was difficult. Thanks to Jos that we got a good start. It was important that we enjoy this victory and move forward,” said Rahane after the match.
Tye drew the first blood for Punjab as his knuckle ball played the trick to dismiss opener Rahane (9) in the fourth over.
Buttler however, continued to fully utilise the powerplay to take his side past the 50-run mark in five overs.
Stoinis gave the second blow to the hosts when Gowtham (8) misread a slower delivery and gave an easy catch to Manoj Tiwary at long on in the seventh over.
With two wickets down, in-form Sanju Samson (22) joined Buttler to forge a 53-run partnership for the third wicket, but departed in the 15th over off a Mujeeb Ur Rahman delivery with the Rajasthan scorecard reading 117/3.
Buttler was then joined by Stokes (14) and the duo shared a 15-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Mujeeb struck again in the 17th over to send back a good looking Buttler, whose knock was laced with nine boundaries and a six.
After his fall, no other Rajasthan batsman could offer any sort of resistance as the hosts lost their next four wickets of Stokes, Stuart Binny (11), Archer (0) and Unadkat (0) with the addition of just 26 runs.
Of the last four wickets, Tye was involved in dismissing three of the Rajasthan batters.
Other than Tye, Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb bagged a couple of wickets conceding 21 runs in four overs while Stoinis chipped in with a wicket too.
Brief scores: Rajasthan Royals 158/8 (Jos Buttler 82, Sanju Samson 22; Andrew Tye 4/34) beat Kings XI Punjab (Lokesh Rahul 95 not out, Marcus Stoinis 11; Krishnappa Gowtham 2/12)
With inputs from IANS