There was a lot of analysis on why Ben Stokes should no open for Rajasthan Royals and that the management should go back to Jos Buttler, who has a strike rate of 152.07 as an opener in T20s since 2018. In five IPL matches that Stokes opened this season, he has scored 110 runs in 103 balls and is yet to score a six, making him only the second batsman in IPL 2020 to face 100-plus balls without hitting a maximum. And his strike rate of 106.79, ahead of the Mumbai Indians game in Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening, was the least among all batters who have faced more than 100 balls this season. But the Royals persisted with the Englishman and he eventually returned a figure which a struggling Rajasthan were in dire need of.
Stokes recorded scores of 5, 41, 15, 19, 30 as an opener with just four boundaries and zero sixes. Even Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals' mentor and brand ambassador, in an interview with Sky Sports' IPL Cricket Show in the UK, opined that Rajasthan should open with Buttler and have Stokes at No.4.
But the Royals gave him another go as an opener and he finally came good, showing intent in his run-scoring right from the first over and even while the Royals were set a colossal target of 196 as he notched up his maiden fifty-plus score since his debut season in IPL in 2017 for Rising Pune Supergiant. And then carried the momentum to convert it into his second IPL century and first as an opener. His maiden ton in IPL had come in 2017 as well.
The century, coming off 59 balls and laced with 13 boundaries and three sixes, guided Rajasthan Royals to a clinical eight-wicket win in Abu Dhabi against Mumbai Indians.
The win also kept the Royals alive, albeit mathematically, in the race to the playoffs, while Chennai Super Kings were eliminated following the win.