Rajasthan skipper Steve Smith, on the back of his side’s second dominant chase in as many games, lavished praise on his talisman Ben Stokes and described the all-rounder as ‘one of the best in the world’. Stokes, after picking 2/32 with the ball, struck a bludgeoning fifty inside the powerplay.
At the post match presentation in the Mumbai game, Ben Stokes described his century as ‘bittersweet’, claiming that he was disappointed that he was not able to hit the ground running earlier. Thus after Chennai busted the points table wide open on Thursday by beating Kolkata, Stokes needed no invitation to set the stage ablaze on Friday.
In what was his most complete, all-round performance of the tournament yet, Stokes, versus Punjab on Friday, first took the initiative with the ball - bowling 4 overs for 32 runs and taking the valuable wickets of Rahul and Pooran - and then picked up right from where he left off against Mumbai, with the bat. The southpaw struck a 25-ball 50 inside the powerplay and the thrust his bat provided was more than enough to see the side over the line, despite it not lasting long.
Through his performance on Friday, Stokes restated why he’s considered the best all-rounder in the world and speaking post match, Rajasthan Royals skipper Steve Smith echoed the same sentiments. Smith, who himself scored a handy 31*, revealed that he always had full faith that Stokes would come good and described the all-rounder as ‘one of the best in the world’.
“The last two games he (Stokes) has been exceptional. Has good innovation, Hits the ball in weird areas. He is a valuable player. One of the best in the world,” Smith said post match.
“You are always talking to players and try to get the best of them. We know if he spends time in the middle, he will come good.”
The win on Friday kept Rajasthan in the hunt for a playoff spot and it was, interestingly, the side’s first back-to-back win of the season since week one, when they downed CSK and KXIP in consecutive games in Sharjah. Smith emphasized the importance of peaking at the right time and also expressed pleasure over the side having considerably improved its NRR. The RR skipper also quipped that he and the boys will keep a close eye on the proceedings on Saturday.
“Ebbed and flowed (through the tournament). But would have been great to win a few in the middle. But it is about peaking at the right time. We still need to do our bit, We have different plans as to who goes in after who gets out. Gave Buttler a chance to bat at number 5 after he didn't bat in the previous game.
“Nice to get over the line comfortably. Helps the NRR. Couple of games tomorrow, we will be matching them closely and then good to go day after.”
Unless both SRH and KXIP lose at least one more match, Rajasthan will have to hope for a thumping win on Sunday against the Knight Riders to stand a chance to make it to the final four.