Ben Stokes returned to IPL action as Rajasthan Royals snapped their losing streak with a dramatic five-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai.
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The England all-rounder, having missed the first three weeks of the tournament to be with his sick father in New Zealand, went straight into the line-up for Rajasthan – who were coming off the back of four straight defeats.
Stokes’ contribution proved to be low-key – he bowled just a single over for seven runs as Sunrisers totalled 158-4, with Manish Pandey (54 off 44 balls) top-scoring, and made only five before playing on to Khaleel Ahmed.
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But an explosive, unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of exactly 100 between Rahul Tewatia and Riyan Parag rescued the Royals from 63-5 and they swept to the target with one ball to spare.
Sunrisers’ skipper David Warner won the toss and took first knock, but he and Jonny Bairstow struggled in the powerplay against excellent bowling from Jofra Archer (1-25).
Bairstow (16) seemed to have lifted the shackles by belting Kartik Tyagi over the leg side boundary, but the England batsman then tried to repeat the shot to a slower ball and his top edge flew into the diving Sanju Samson’s hands.
However, Warner gradually began to accelerate, dancing down the track to dispatch Shreyas Gopal high over long-off for six as he and Pandey put together a second-wicket stand of 73.
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The Australian was only two short of his half-century when he was bowled by Archer, failing to pick the slower delivery, but Pandey did pass 50 for the second time in this year’s tournament.
He slammed spinner Tewatia for two huge maximums before eventually holing out to Jaydev Unadkat (1-31) in the 18th over – and it was the last two of the innings that hauled Sunrisers above a par score.
Those 12 deliveries realised 34, with Kane Williamson (22 not out off 12) denting Archer’s figures with two sixes and Priyam Garg (15 off eight) sacrificing his wicket off the last ball of the innings.
The Royals’ run chase got off to a disastrous start as Khaleel collected the scalps of both Stokes and Jos Buttler – the latter caught behind for 16 off a thin inside edge, just three balls after Steve Smith (5) had been run out at the bowler’s end.
That left them in trouble at 26-3, although Samson (26) and Robin Uthappa (18) did their best to rebuild, going for their shots and running well between the wickets.
A deadly spell of leg-spin from Rashid Khan (2-25) seemed to have snuffed out the Royals’ hopes as he pinned Uthappa lbw on the back foot before Sanju edged behind to give Bairstow his second victim of the innings.
But Tewatia (45no off 28) and Parag (42no off 26) had other ideas and the pair kept Rajasthan in the hunt with a string of boundaries, successfully chasing down 54 from the last four overs to reignite their side’s play-off prospects.
Live coverage of the Dream11 Indian Premier League continues on Monday with Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kolkata Knight Riders from 2.50pm on Sky Sports Cricket.
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