Punjab seal top spot, Rajasthan bungle qualification chance

IPL7, GAME 52—Royals miss chance to close the race to the playoffs in 16-run defeat.

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All of the Kings XI top six, without the rested Glenn Maxwell, contributed to push them to 179 for 4 after they were asked to bat. Virender Sehwag and Manan Vohra provided the initial boost, Shaun Marsh and Wriddhiman Saha kept them going in the middle stages, and David Miller and George Bailey powered away to a big finish.

Barring a shortlived starting surge from Karun Nair, Royals were never allowed to get ahead in the chase. Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson were tied down, before Rishi Dhawan broke through with the wickets of Rahane and Shane Watson off successive deliveries. Legspinner Karanveer Singh, on IPL debut, struck twice in successive overs as Royals slid to 83 for 5 at the start of the 14th over, a position from which there was no coming back.

Kings XI pulled ahead early when Sehwag started with three successive boundaries in the first over off seamer Vikramjeet Malik, who was playing his first match of the season. Sehwag fell soon for 18 off 8, and Manan Vohra took over. Vohra was in superb touch again, a smooth pick-up off Watson ending up way over the deep midwicket boundary. But Vohra ran himself out in careless fashion after Kings XI had built a solid base of 53 for 1 in six overs.

There was little let-up in the scoring though as Wriddhiman Saha pulled and paddled Pravin Tambe for consecutive fours. Saha and Marsh kept finding at least a boundary an over against the legspinners Tambe and Tewatia. Even as Kings XI motored past 100, Marsh fell against the run of play, lofting Malik to long-on, before there was a short delay due to a drizzle.

Only 20 runs came in four overs after the break, and Kings XI also lost Saha to a well-judged take on the straight boundary from Rahane off Tewatia. At 133 for 4 after 17 overs, Kings XI were still in need of a final assault, and Miller and Bailey provided it. James Faulkner was taken for 23 in the penultimate over as 46 came off the last three.

Again, Brad Hodge and Faulkner came in with too much to do and too little time available. They tried their best, hitting frenetic thirties. It was credit to them that they brought down the margin of defeat significantly when 77 were needed off the last four. Faulkner kept slamming sixes till the very end, and it was a pity he could face only 13 deliveries.

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