Mohali: Rajasthan Royals moved closer to sealing a place in the IPL 6 play-offs after emphatically brushing aside Kings XI Punjab by eight wickets at the PCA Stadium on Thursday. The visitors came to Mohali chasing two points to move nearer to 20 and did just that, keeping Punjab to 145 and then having Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson to thank for a breezy chase. Crucial to Rajasthan's win was restricting Punjab to 38 runs in their last five overs, for the loss of three wickets, including not allowing a single boundary in the final 25 balls.
Punjab's problem was that at either end of a century stand between Shaun Marsh (77) and Adam Gilchrist (42) there was nothing of substance. Ajit Chandila, recalled as one of four changes for Rajasthan, struck in the first over when he had Mandeep Singh caught and bowled for 0. Either side of two more tidy overs from Chandila, Gilchrist took boundaries off Sreesanth and James Faulkner to give the innings some drive as Marsh struggled to 13 off 21 balls.
Having conceded 10 off three overs, Chandila was taken for 14 in his last as Marsh woke from his slumber with six and four in successive deliveries. He and Gilchrist motored along to a century stand in 13 overs with a blend of quick running and some firm cuts and pulls, until the captain, on 42, mistimed a return catch to Cooper.
Here, Rajasthan dragged things back with the wicket of David Hussey who was bowled for 1 by Shane Watson. Marsh reached his fifty and then drove Faulkner for six and four in the 16th over, but that was the last time a KXIP batsman would find the boundary. Dropped on 71 when he miscued a skier which Rahul Dravid missed running around in the covers, Marsh managed three runs off his next six balls faced and was unable to launch a late assault.
Cooper bowled an outstanding three-run penultimate over in which Marsh (77) and David Miller (8) were foxed by clever slower deliveries, and off the last Faulkner conceded eight for the wicket of Manpreet Gony (3) who lofted to deep extra cover.
After that strong finish with the ball, Rajasthan were indebted to Rahane's cool composure in pursuit of 146. Left-arm spinner Bipul Sharma lifted Punjab early in their defence by producing a good delivery that beat Dravid's forward drive and cannoned into the stumps in the second over, but with Rahane moving along steadily and Watson muscling the ball the chase was kept on track.
Watson (31) helped add 66 with Rahane before he was bowled by a seam-up delivery from Chawla, but that was the last success Punjab managed. With Rahane relying on superb placement - he effortlessly lofted Chawla and Gony for sixes - there was no need for anything drastic. Sharma and Chawla slowed down the chase with two tidy overs - the 13th and 14th - but Samson replied with three fours in eight deliveries and Rahane swung Parvinder Awana for a six to leave the equation at 16 from the last three.
Samson hastened victory with an unbeaten 47 off 33 balls, another excellent innings from the 18-year-old. The win was sealed with a hard-hit from Samson off the last ball of the 19th over.