The race for a spot in the Indian Premier League play-offs will come down to the wire after Rajasthan Royals kept alive their hopes with a seven-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab on Friday night.
Rajasthan Royals chased down Kings XI Punjab’s Chris Gayle-inspired total of 4-185 with 15 balls to spare led by Player of the Match Ben Stokes who fired 50 from 26 balls while Sanju Samson crunched 48 from 25.
The result means Rajasthan close to 6-7 in fifth behind Kings XI narrowly with the same record in fourth with one game to play.
Kings XI’s final match is against bottom-placed Chennai Super Kings while Rajasthan are up against sixth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders, who also hold a 6-7 record.
Rajasthan captain Steve Smith retained hope of making the top four, despite requiring Kings XI to lose their final game, or win and make up an unlikely difference in net run rate.
“The season has ebbed and flowed,” Smith said, reflecting on the Royals’ season which included a run of six losses in seven games, before their recent uplift of three wins in four.
“It would have been nice to have a couple of wins in the middle. We still need to do a bit to make the playoffs, and we need things to go our way.
“Having said that, if that happens, we are playing very good cricket.”
Kings XI captain K.L. Rahul was frustrated by the impact of losing the toss to Rajasthan given the dew, but optimistic about their top four chances given they still hold fourth spot and have fate in their own hands.
“It has been the kind of season where nothing has come easy,” Rahul said.
“We have had to work hard for every point. No surprise that it has come down to the last game.”
Gayle’s impact has been significant for Kings XI since his addition to the side and his 99 from 63 balls, which included eight sixes, was another fine knock.
The West Indian was bowled by Jofra Archer (2-26) on the verge of his century and in frustration swung his bat and lost his grip on it, throwing it several metres, which may attract penalty.
Stokes was best afield given his half-century and the fact he also took 2-32 with the ball with the wickets of Rahul and Nicholas Pooran.