|Indian Premier League (Abu Dhabi):|
|Kings XI Punjab 185-4 (20 overs): Gayle 99; Archer 2-26|
|Rajasthan Royals 186-3 (17.3 overs): Stokes 50, Samson 48|
|Rajasthan Royals won by seven wickets|
Ben Stokes propelled Rajasthan Royals to a seven-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab to keep the Royals in the Indian Premier League reckoning.
Stokes, opening the batting, clubbed 50 from 26 balls to set Rajasthan on their way to a target of 186, which they reached with 15 balls to spare.
Kings XI had earlier been lifted to 185-4 by Chris Gayle’s 99.
The Royals join fourth-placed Kings XI on 12 points in a congested hunt for the play-off places.
With four teams due to qualify for the knockout games, all of Kings XI, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan – the teams placed fourth to seventh in the eight-team table – can advance if they win their remaining games.
Rajasthan would have been eliminated if they lost in Abu Dhabi, only to emphatically end Kings XI’s five-match winning streak.
That was not before West Indian Gayle belted eight sixes, the seventh of which was the 42-year-old’s 1,000th in T20 cricket.
He was bowled in the final over by Jofra Archer, throwing his bat away in frustration before congratulating the England bowler with a slap of hands.
Stokes, who made an unbeaten century in Rajasthan’s previous victory over Mumbai Indians, set a fierce pace in the chase, giving Rajasthan an initiative they did not surrender.
Jos Buttler, joining his England team-mates Stokes and Archer in the Rajasthan team, was at the crease when the pursuit was completed, the match sealed when another England international, Chris Jordan, bowled a wide.
Rajasthan meet Kolkata on Sunday, with only the victors able to progress, but even victory in that match might not be enough depending on Kings XI’s result against Chennai Super Kings and Hyderabad’s final two games against Bangalore and Mumbai.