MOHALI: Having been ignored for the Champions Trophy, Ajinkya Rahane is batting with a purpose these days. He is out to prove that the decision not to pick him was not the best one. Three half-centuries on the trot, all three while chasing, and all match-winning contributions, are a handy riposte.
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Against Pune Warriors, Rahane scored a whirlwind 67 and followed it up with a smooth, unbeaten 63 against the Delhi Daredevils in what was a tricky run-chase. Here too, Rahane fashioned a run-chase in a calm manner.
It was Rahane’s methodical approach which helped Rajasthan Royals notch up an eight-wicket victory over the Kings XI Punjab. The spectators were treated to some classical shot-making, as the Royals made light work of the target.
Rahane (59 off 49b, 3×4 3×6) got ample support, first from Australian Shane Watson (31 off 25b, 3×4 1×6) with whom he added 66 runs for the second wicket, and then from young Sanju Samson (47 n.o. off 33b, 5×4 1×6), the two sharing an unbroken stand of 76 runs.
Riding on Rahane’s consistent performance, the Royals have now virtually sealed a spot in the playoffs, the second team after Chennai Super Kings to do so.
Earlier, Kings XI Punjab failed to capitalize on a 102-run second-wicket partnership between Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh.
It was all too familiar a start as Ajit Chandila, true to his reputation, got a wicket in his very first over, having Mandeep Singh caught and bowled for nought.
After his dismissal, Gilchrist (42 off 32b, 6×4 0x6) rolled back the years as he played an innings of substance for the first time this season. At the other end, Marsh (77 off 64b, 6×4 2×6) too was in fine form and it seemed that Punjab will reach somewhere close to 200.
But, things changed as soon as Gilchrist got out, foxed by a slower one from Kevon Cooper in the 14th over. Suddenly, the run-rate plummeted and the Royals tightened the noose around the Punjab batsmen.
David Miller, another Australian on the pitch, couldn’t repeat his last-match heroics, as Cooper proved to be his nemesis. Marsh tried to keep one end going but once he fell, Kings XI could muster 145/6, which was at least 20-30 runs short on a friendly batting strip.