KL Rahul, Quinton de Kock take Lucknow to eight-wicket win | Cricket

Heading into this year’s IPL, there were a few questions surrounding KL Rahul. Will he open the batting or play in the middle order? Is he fit enough to keep wickets after missing four of the five Tests against England due to a quadriceps injury? Can he pip some of the other contenders in making the cut for the T20 World Cup?

Lucknow Super Giants’ captain KL Rahul, left, and his batting partner Quinton de Kock run between the wickets during the Indian Premier League cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants(AP)

We don’t know about the last bit yet, but Friday was certainly evidence of Rahul being at his free-flowing best with the bat. Chasing 177, the Lucknow Super Giants captain, who turned 32 on Thursday, led from the front with a knock of 82 off 53 balls and took the hosts to a convincing eight-wicket victory against Chennai Super Kings with an over to spare. Rahul has been subjected to criticism for his approach with the bat in the past, particularly because he has all the shots to play with the freedom that he did on Friday.

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Even with Quinton de Kock at the other end, it was Rahul who was the more dominant partner, helping Lucknow reach 54/0 in the first six overs. The contest was as good as over once Rahul and de Kock laid a solid foundation for the run chase by stitching together 134 runs for the first wicket. Having been dismissed after getting starts in the last five games, Rahul must have been pleased to make it count with his highest score this season. De Kock, meanwhile, justified his standing in the side with his third fifty of the season.

De Kock’s innings came to an end when he was caught by MS Dhoni off Bangladesh left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman. Rahul was brilliantly caught by a flying Ravindra Jadeja at backward off Matheesha Pathirana. By the time the two departed in quick succession, LSG were almost at the doorstep of victory with Nicholas Pooran (23*, 12b, 3×4, 1×6) and Marcus Stoinis (8*, 7b, 1×4) completing the chase.

CSK’s total of 176/6 was thanks to Ravindra Jadeja’s first half-century of this season. Dhoni, coming in to bat in the 18th over, too played a part with a 9-ball 28 not out that included three fours and two sixes. Jadeja (57*, 40b) was in sublime touch, smashing five boundaries and a six to anchor the innings. With Shivam Dube enduring a rare failure — he was out for 3 off 8 balls — Moeen Ali’s 20-ball 30 was also crucial in providing the impetus for CSK’s innings towards the end. CSK scored 71 runs in the final five overs.

The pacers kept a check on the CSK batters early on and experienced spinner Krunal Pandya ensured that he maintained pressure in the middle overs.

LSG pacers Matt Henry and Mohsin Khan were on target from the very start, sharing a wicket each to see CSK struggling at 33/2 within the powerplay even though opener Ajinkya Rahane (36, 24b, 5×4, 1×6) was hitting the ball well. Mohsin dismissed Rachin Ravindra off his very first delivery while skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad (17, 13b, 1×4) was done in by Yash Thakur’s outswinger. Dube (3) and Sameer Rizvi (1) departed in quick succession, but a 51-run sixth wicket partnership between Dhoni and Jadeja gave CSK’s bowlers a total to bowl at.

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