Blistering half century by Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes led Rising Pune Supergiant’s recovery with a blistering half century, helping his team post 163 for six in its Indian Premier League (IPL) match against Kings XI Punjab here on Saturday.

After fall of the top order that left Pune at 49 for three in the ninth over, Stokes (50 off 32) showed why he was the most expensive player at the auction with some brutal hitting. He got good support from Manoj Tiwary (40 off 23).

Tiwary and Daniel Christian, who both remained unbeaten, took Mohit and Sandeep Sharma to the cleaners at the end of the innings, collecting 30 off the last 12 balls.

It appeared to be a tricky surface to bat on after Kings XI Punjab opted to field in their opening match of the tournament.

Sandeep castled Mayank Agarwal with a sharp inswinger though the shot selection of the opener so early on in the innings was questionable.

It was a memorable IPL debut for Tamil Nadu pacer T Natarajan, who took just two balls to strike, having the seasoned Ajinkya Rahane (19) holed out at deep cover.

The onus was on in-form captain Steven Smith (26) to bail his team out of trouble. He hung around for a while before he mistimed one to be caught at deep square leg. Soon another experienced batsmen, M S Dhoni, departed and Pune were down to 71 for four in the 12th over.

Stokes was joined by Tiwary and together they scored 61 off 37 balls to set up a competitive total.

The Englishman, who came into the tournament with a Rs 14 crore price tag, slammed three sixes and couple of hours in his blazing knock.

Tiwary was not far behind with three fours and two sixes and ended up having a better strike rate than Stokes.

Christian hammered Sandeep for couple of hours and a maxium in the 20th over to push the score beyond 150.

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