Rajasthan Royals 196 for 2 (Stokes 107*, Samson 54*, Pattinson 2-40) beat Mumbai Indians 195 for 5 (Hardik 60*, Yadav 40, Gopal 2-30) by eight wickets
Ben Stokes finally came to the party with an unbeaten 107 off 60 balls as the Rajasthan Royals chased down Mumbai Indians' 195 for 5 with relative ease in the end in Abu Dhabi. The win not only kept the Royals in the race for the playoffs - they are now sixth on the points table with ten points from 12 games - but also brought the curtain down on the Chennai Super Kings' campaign.
Earlier, Hardik Pandya's 60 not out off 21 balls, studded with seven sixes and two fours, had lit up the evening. But that didn't prove enough as Stokes and Sanju Samson added 152 off 82 balls in an unbroken third-wicket partnership to take the Royals home with ten balls to spare.
Archer snares in-form de Kock early
Quinton de Kock had scores of 53, 78*, 53 and 46* coming into this game. He looked primed for another good knock when he pulled a 149.6kph Jofra Archer delivery for a six to get off the mark. Archer, however, pitched the next ball a little fuller and a bit wider, and de Kock chopped on with an angled bat.
From the other end, Ankit Rajpoot was a bit wayward and Ishan Kishan, opening once again in the absence of Rohit Sharma, and Suryakumar Yadav took full advantage of that. In the sixth over, both of them hit Rajpoot for a six each to take the side to 59 for 1 at the end of the powerplay.
Gopal double-strike pulls Mumbai back
The Royals turned to their two legspinners - Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia - after that and the move worked straightaway as the next two overs produced only eight runs. Yadav then tried to take Gopal on by going inside-out but ended up slicing it over point for four. He attempted the same shot on the next ball and this time ended up hitting it in the air towards deep cover. Tewatia charged towards the ball, put in the dive, got his fingers underneath the ball but couldn't hold on to it.
Kishan, who was struggling to score beyond a run a ball, then slashed at Kartik Tyagi. The ball flew towards third man where Archer misjudged it before plucking it one-handed over his head to leave his team-mates gasping. A couple of overs later, Gopal dented Mumbai further by removing Yadav and Kieron Pollard in the same over. While Yadav holed out to long-off, Pollard failed to read a googly and was bowled through the gate. That was the first time Pollard was dismissed since the opening game of the tournament.
Hardik blitz gives Mumbai powerful finish
Mumbai were 120 for 4 when Tewatia dropped Hardik on the last ball of the 16th over. This was a bit easier than the one he grassed earlier, the only difference being he was fielding at deep midwicket this time. Hardik made full use of the opportunity and smashed Rajpoot for four sixes in the 18th over, three of them off full tosses. Archer conceded only three in the 19th over but Hardik wasn't done yet. After Krunal Pandya took a single off the first ball of the final over, Hardik unleashed himself on Tyagi. Standing deep inside his crease, he hit the next five balls for 6, 4, 4, 6 and 6 to take Mumbai to a daunting total, with 74 runs coming off the last four overs.
Royals off to quick start despite Pattinson double-strike
Before this game, Stokes had scored only 110 runs off 103 balls in IPL 2020. Questions were being raised if opening with him was the right thing to do, and if the Royals should move him down the order and open with Jos Buttler instead.
The Royals needed a quick start to chase down 196 and losing Robin Uthappa in the second over, who mistimed James Pattinson to mid-on, didn't help. With the Royals 13 for 1 at the end of two overs, Stokes was yet to face a ball. But he soon hit his stride with four fours off Trent Boult in the third over. Steven Smith, who promoted himself to No. 3, then struck a four and six off Jasprit Bumrah in the next over before Pattinson bowled him with an inducker. But Stokes hit the last two balls of the sixth over for fours, bowled by Krunal, to ensure the Royals didn't bog down.
The Stokes and Samson show
Stokes was now growing in confidence. In the eighth over, he slog-swept Rahul Chahar over deep midwicket for his first six of the season. The next ball was sent past backward point courtesy a reverse sweep. That allowed Samson to settle down as well. While the Royals reached 99 for 2 at the end of ten overs, they still needed another 97.
A couple of quiet overs made it 89 required from 48 balls. It was then Samson who took the pressure off Stokes with some timely blows. On 19 off 18 at the end of the 12th over, Samson hit two sixes and two fours in the next two overs to bring it down to 52 needed from the last six overs. With both batsmen in top gear by now, that wasn't a big ask. With Bumrah straying down the leg side, Samson took him for two successive fours and then brought up his half-century, off 27 balls, with a brace.
A couple of streaky fours further ate away from the target. With ten required, Stokes was three short of his hundred. He reached the landmark in style by hitting Pattinson for a six over midwicket and then sealed the game with a four on the next ball.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo