English batsman Jos Buttler continued his red-hot form with a 94 not out as Rajasthan Royals thumped Mumbai Indians by seven wickets here on Sunday to boost their chance of qualifying for the Indian Premier League (IPL) play-offs. After Mumbai posted 168/6, thanks to opening batsmen Suryakumar Yadav (60) and Evin Lewis, Buttler registered his fifth consecutive fifty, which contained five sixes and nine fours, to guide his team to seven-wicket victory with two overs to spare.The loss left three-time champions Mumbai stranded at 10 points from 12 games, while Rajasthan took their tally to 12 after 12 games. The Jaipur-based outfit needs to win its remaining two games to qualify for the play-offs, while Mumbai’s fate is not in their hands and will have to depend on the performances of other teams.The result at the Wankhede Stadium was decisive since the winner not only bagged two valuable points, but also derail the loser’s challenge for the race to the knockouts. Asked to bat first, Mumbai were off to a steady start with Evin Lewis and Suryakumar coming up with an opening partnership of 87 runs off 64 balls.Lewis, who narrowly survived being caught by Stuart Binny in the third over, made good use of the reprieve to blast his way to 60 runs off 42 deliveries. His quick-fire knock included four boundaries and as many sixes. Suryakumar, who also got an early let-off, being dropped by Krishna Gowtham off Dhawal Kulkarni early in the second over, went on to post a steady 38 off 31 deliveries.
Although the opening duo gave the hosts a strong platform for a big total, the rest of the Mumbai batsmen failed to capitalise. Rajasthan bowlers did well to bag five wickets over the next six overs to make a strong comeback. Jofra Archer was the most impressive of the bunch, giving away a mere 16 runs in his four overs while claiming the crucial wickets of Suryakumar and Rohit Sharma.Fellow pacer Ben Stokes bowled well in the late stages to return figures of 2/26. Indian pacers Jaydev Unadkat and Dhawal Kulkarni also got a wicket each as Mumbai seemed in real danger of failing to cross the 150-run mark. However, Hardik Pandya helped the hosts to a competitive total with a late charge, scoring 36 runs off 21 balls before holing out to Stokes in the penultimate ball of the innings.During the chase, Rajasthan had a poor start, losing D’Arcy Short (4) to paceman Jasprit Bumrah in the first over. However, Buttler and Ajinkya Rahane (37 off 36) stitched together a 95-run stand for the second wicket to keep the visitors in the hunt. It was a perfect partnership as Rahane played a run-a-ball knock, Buttler dealt in with fours and sixes to get the things going.The stand was broken after Rahane failed to clear Suryakumar at mid-off boundary off a ball from Hardik Pandya in the first delivery of the 14th over, with Rajasthan’s score at 104. Later, Buttler continued his good work and found good support from Sanju Samson, who played a quickfire knock of 26 off 14 balls. Samson hit Hardik for two sixes in the 18th over as Rajasthan romped to victory.
Brief scores: Mumbai Indians: 168/6 in 20 overs (Evin Lewis 60, Suryakumar Yadav 38, Hardik Pandya 36; Jofra Archer 2/16, Ben Stokes 2/26) vs Rajasthan Royals: 171/3 in 18 overs (Jos Buttler 94 not out, Ajinkya Rahane 37; Hardik Pandya 2/52).