Ben Stokes’s spectacular hundred overshadowed Hardik Pandya’s six-hitting spree as Rajasthan Royals spiced up the Indian Premier League playoffs race with an emphatic eight-wicket win over Mumbai Indians at Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Stokes, who plundered 14 fours and three sixes in his unbeaten 60-ball 107, found an able ally in Sanju Samson (54 not out off 31) as their unbroken 152-run partnership allowed Royals to make short work of the 196-run target. They cantered to victory in 18.2 overs.
Mumbai had put up an imposing 195 for five courtesy a 21-ball 60 Hardik Pandya, who smashed seven sixes and two fours. It was the fourth loss for Mumbai, who remain in a comfortable position at the top of the standings.
The comprehensive win over defending champions not only kept Royals alive in the tournament, but it also eliminated Chennai Super Kings from the competition.
The night belonged to Stokes, who tore into the Mumbai attack after RR lost opener Robin Uthappa (13) and Steve Smith (11) early. The southpaw was back to his very best, having struggled with his timing in the earlier games.
Samson joined Stokes, who had collected four boundaries off Trent Boult in the third over.
The Englishman then went on the offensive against Krunal Pandya, collecting two fours before a boundary and six against Rahul Chahar with Royals racing to 75 for two after eight overs.
Stokes and Samson played shots at will with RR collecting 18 and 19 runs off the 13th and 14th over bowled by James Pattinson and Chahar.
Stokes completed his 100 in 59 balls, with a thumping six over deep mid-wicket and fittingly finished the match with a boundary.
Earlier, Mumbai suffered a mini-collapse in the middle-overs and but late hitting from Hardik and Saurabh Tiwary (34 of 25) enabled the defending champions to amass 74 runs in the last four overs.
Tiwary and Hardik shared a 64-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Tiwary was brutal against Archer (2-31) in the 17th over, smashing two fours and a maximum while Hardik hammered four sixes off Ankit Rajpoot (0-60) in the 18th over, which went for 27 runs.
Hardik launched into Kartik Tyagi (1-45) in the final over, hitting him for three sixes and two fours. His blitzkrieg can prove to be the difference in the game.
After Mumbai lost opener Quinton De Kock (6) early, Ishan Kishan (37 off 36 balls) and Suryakumar Yadav (40 off 26) rallied the innings with their 83-run second-wicket stand.
Kishan and Surya again tore into pacer Rajpoot, smashing a six each as Mumbai raced to 59 for one after six overs.
Surya went on the offensive against Shreyas Gopal, collecting two boundaries in the ninth over.
But Rajasthan pulled things back by dismissing Kishan, Surya and Kieron Pollard (6) in quick succession as Mumbai slipped to 101 for four.
Kishan perished courtesy a one-handed blinder from Archer at third-man, off Tyagi, and then Gopal removed Surya and Pollard in the 13th over.
While Surya gave a sitter to Ben Stokes, Pollard was undone by a googly, which uprooted his stumps.
(With inputs from PTI)