Buttler keeps Royals relevant in race to playoffs


Rajasthan Royals 177 for 6 (Buttler 95*, Thakur 1-22) beat Chennai Super Kings 176 for 4 (Raina 52, Watson 39, Archer 2-42) by four wickets

Jos Buttler gets behind the line to slap through the off side (BCCI photo)

Jos Buttler’s fourth consecutive IPL fifty, and K Gowtham’s decisive four-ball 13 in the 19th over of the chase helped seal Rajasthan Royals’ final-over win against Chennai Super Kings to keep them in contention for the playoffs.

Buttler made 95 of Royals’ total of 177, hitting 11 boundaries and two sixes, but the chase got closer than Royals would’ve liked. They needed 38 off the last three overs, but four sixes – one from Stuart Binny (22) and three from Buttler and Gowtham – helped Royals win the match with one ball to spare.

The win took Royals to sixth on the points table; they are now tied, on ten points with fourth- and fifth-placed Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively.

Raina, Watson rebuild after early wobble

The early wicket of Super Kings’ top scorer – Ambati Rayudu – could’ve sent CSK into panic, but Suresh Raina made it a productive Powerplay by finding the boundary five times in the 16 balls he played in that phase. That had sent Raina racing to 29, and allowed Shane Watson to find his footing. Both batsmen carefully saw off a couple of post-Powerplay overs, but then struck a six each off Ish Sodhi’s second over to pick up 16 off the ninth. By the time Jofra Archer dismissed Watson in the 12th over, the pair had put up 86 off 56 balls.

Raina reached his 45th T20 fifty but perished soon after, trying to accelerate in the 13th. He failed to pick a googly from Sodhi, and his sweep was top-edged to Binny at short fine leg. From 105 for 1, CSK had quickly stuttered to 119 for 3 with two new batsmen at the crease.

Royals choke CSK’s batsmen at the death

From overs 14 to 19, CSK managed only three shots to the boundary – one each off Ben Stokes, Jaydev Unadkat and Archer – as Royals fought back by either bowling pinpoint yorkers or going full and wide to MS Dhoni and Sam Billings. The Royals’ bowlers couldn’t seem to break the partnership but were economical nonetheless.

Despite having seven wickets in hand, CSK managed only 45 runs in the last six overs and were pushing towards a below-par total before Billings and Dhoni managed to eke out 12 off the 20th over to take CSK to 176. Sodhi and Stokes both went for under eight per over.

The Buttler did it, again

In the 11-year history of the tournament, only two players – Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag – had previously struck four fifties in a row. But, Buttler joined that list on Friday by producing his highest-score of the tournament. He came in with another new opening partner, this time Ben Stokes, but Buttler farmed the strike for the first two overs. He found the boundary off six of those 12 balls, and raced away to 27.

It was only in the third over that Stokes finally faced his first ball, but was bowled by a slider from Harbhajan Singh after hitting the offspinner for ten off two deliveries. Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane fell for 4 soon after, but Buttler went his way, rotating the strike with the incoming Sanju Samson and finding the odd boundary to reach fifty off just 26 deliveries in the eighth over. And then, as he has done often this season, he pulled back the strike-rate in a bid to anchor the rest of the innings.

The dismissals of Samson and debutant Prashant Chopra gave CSK a look-in in the 13th over, but with the aggressive Binny for company, Buttler held back to let his partner play the big shots. Binny was out in the 18th over after hitting a six over long-on, but by then the equation had come down to 31 off 14 deliveries.

Royals, however, were still behind the eight-ball with overs from Dwayne Bravo and David Willey still to come. But the incoming Gowtham teed off twice in the space of three legal deliveries to bring the equation down to 12 off seven. Gowtham fell off the final ball of the 19th, but his four-ball blitz had done the job.

Needing 12, Buttler took strike off the final over, and finished the game himself. First, he dragged two yorkers into the leg side to pick up four runs, before picking a slower ball and slugging it over midwicket for six. And then with two needed off two, Buttler cut the ball to extra cover and collected the two required – one of them via a needless overthrow from Watson – to complete the job. (ESPNCricinfo)


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