Rahane's 98 sets up easy Rajasthan win
Rajasthan Royals 191 for 4 (Rahane 98) beat Kings XI Punjab 160 for 9 (Mandeep 34, Cooper 4-26) by 31 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ajinkya Rahane purred his way to 98 off 66 deliveries and carried Rajasthan Royals to a comfortable win in their opening match of the season. Faced with a stiff target of 192 after choosing to bowl, the fight went out of Kings XI Punjab as soon as they lost Adam Gilchrist in the fifth over. Trinidad & Tobago's Kevon Cooper accounted for four wickets with his slow-mediums on IPL debut as Kings XI meandered along without threatening to challenge Royals.
The damage had already been done at the start by Rahane who played an innings full of strokes that would not have been out of place in the longer formats of the game. He didn't use power or swagger - he didn't need to - but still hurt Kings XI. Their patchy attack could not bother Rahane at all, as he picked gaps at will with precision.
An opening partnership of 77 inside ten overs set Royals on their way with their captain Rahul Dravid not having to do much apart from supporting Rahane. Rahane has a lower Twenty20 strike-rate than Dravid, not among the swiftest himself, but today, he batted with a serene assurance that eluded his senior partner and idol.
While Dravid and Brad Hodge went too hard at the bowling and mistimed their shots, Rahane seemed to have the right stroke for almost every delivery. The orthodoxy of his batting was evident from the fact that he hit 16 fours, and only one six. There was no slog-sweep over midwicket, there was no scoop over short fine leg.
There were punches on the up through cover, there were deft guides past point, and inside-out lofts over extra cover. Kings XI were put under pressure early on when James Faulkner's first over went for 11. Rahane tore into Praveen Kumar in the third over, a drive, two flicks and a straight push bringing him four fours in five deliveries.
The introduction of spin slowed the scoring a bit but Rahane soon found a way. He was beaten in the flight by a Piyush Chawla delivery, but quickly recovered to go back and punch it over the bowler's head for four. He was soon stepping out repeatedly to negate the spinners.
Gilchrist tried Paul Valthaty's slow-mediums but Rahane took 16 more off that over, his third boundary of the over threading the gap between two point fielders.
Royals lost Dravid and Ashok Menaria in consecutive overs, the 10th and the 11th, but that made no difference to the flow of the innings. Rahane raced towards a century with three consecutive fours off Chawla but was bowled on 98 by Faulker as he tried to make room outside leg, typically, not to slog, but to go through extra cover.
Owais Shah and Cooper launched Royals past 190. Cooper, who caught attention with his performances in the Champions League Twenty20 last year, had an IPL debut to remember. He had a role to play in seven of the nine Kings XI wickets to fall.
Gilchrist began with a series of pulls but was caught by Cooper at mid-on for 27. Paul Valthaty slashed Cooper to gully and Shaun Marsh and Abhishek Nayar succumbed to his lack of pace. The ball seemed to follow Cooper everywhere.
He soon caught David Hussey at long-on off Siddharth Trivedi as Kings XI slipped to 86 for 5. There was to be another wicket, of Piyush Chawla, to give Cooper figures of 4-0-26-4. Not done yet, he ran out Praveen in the last over. Kings XI, though, had already run out of steam after Rahane's elegant display.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo