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Shaun & Akshar shine

Mohali: Kings XI Punjab produced a clinical all-round display to register a convincing 16-run win over Rajasthan Royals and consolidate their position at the top of the IPL VII table, here on Friday.

Sent into bat, table-toppers Kings XI Punjab plundered 46 runs in the last three overs to finish with a competitive 179 for four. Their bowlers then came to the party, with Akshar Patel leading the way with impressive figures of three for 24, to restrict RR to 163 for eight.

Needing 31 in the last over, James Faulkner (35 off 13) smashed two sixes to make it a little interesting, but the asking rate proved to be too much for the Royals in the end. Faulkner blasted four sixes during his breezy, unbeaten knock.

The hosts’ 10th win kept the door open for Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad. On Sunday, Royals play Mumbai Indians as the battle for the fourth play-off berth goes down to the wire.

Chasing a stiff target, Rajasthan Royals lost Karun Nair (11) with just 21 runs on the board, but the scoring rate was decent. Nair, after hitting a couple of boundaries, gave a skier to George Bailey off L Balaji.

Ajinkya Rahane (23) and Sanju Samson (31) got things moving for the visitors by accumulating 13 runs in the sixth over with the help of three fours.

Samson launched Beuran Hendricks for a six, the hook off an attempted short ball clearing the rope.

A very economical over followed, with Karanveer Singh conceding just two runs, and it had an impact on Rajasthan Royals as they lost Rahane, who was bowled through the gate by Rishi Dhawan after the batsman left a gap between his bat and pad.

With the required rate soaring with each delivery, the pressure was showing on Rajasthan Royals.

Another big blow awaited RR and the experienced Shane Watson was the next man out, the bowler again being Dhawan, who uprooted the Aussie’s stumps after getting one to move back in.

A few overs later, Stuart Binny was sent back by Karanveer Singh to make life even more difficult for the Royals.

Samson fell two overs later and when Brad Hodge, after blasting his way to a 18-ball 31 with the help of two sixes and as many fours, got out, it was all over for Rajasthan.

Rishi Dhawan and Karanveer Singh picked up two wickets each for Punjab.

Earlier, KXIP upped the ante towards the end after being 133 for four at the end of 17th over, with the in-form David Miller and skipper George Bailey at the crease on 29 and 26 respectively.

Shaun Marsh top-scored with 40, which included five hits to the fence.

Kings XI Punjab were off to a brisk start with Virender Sehwag dealing in boundaries, but the opener got out just when he was threatening to notch up a big score. He was caught by Vikramjeet Malik off the bowling of James Faulkner for 18 off just eight balls.