CHENNAI: In a game Rajasthan Royals needed to win to keep qualification hopes alive, their batsmen rose to the occasion against Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi on Friday. They ended up chasing down 185 with 15 deliveries to spare and seven wickets in hand.
The win makes the top four battle all the more intriguing. Thanks to the victory, Rajasthan climbed to fifth spot and crucially, improved their net run rate from -0.50 to -0.38. At this moment, four teams are on 12 points with a game to go.
The loss means KL Rahul and his team cannot qualify in the top two positions, but remain in the hunt for a place in the last four.
Rajasthan will take on Kolkata Knight Riders in their last match, with Punjab facing the already eliminated Chennai Super Kings.
It was not supposed to be a straightforward chase, but the intent shown by all the batsmen right from the start suggested the team management had the NRR in mind.
Ben Stokes hit 50 off only 26 deliveries up top and he was aided by Sanju Samson (48 off 25) and skipper Steve Smith (31 off 20). Rahul complained of dew which did not allow his bowlers to find any sort of rhythm.
Earlier, two dropped chances allowed Chris Gayle to power Kings XI Punjab to 185/4. The Jamaican hit 99 off 63 balls which included eight sixes. The penultimate one of those brought up his 1000th six in T20 cricket.