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Rahul smashes record 14-ball 50 to earn Punjab easy IPL win  

Sports Desk : Opening batsman Lokesh Rahul smashed the fastest half-century in Indian Premier League history off only 14 balls and led his new franchise Kings XI Punjab to a six-wicket win over Delhi Daredevils on Sunday with seven balls to spare.

Sunil Narine nearly matched Rahul when he hit 50 off 17 balls in Kolkata Knight Riders’ four-wicket victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore at Eden Gardens in the day’s other match.

Rahul’s 51 featured six fours and four sixes as Punjab reached 167-4 in 18.5 overs with Karun Nair (50 off 33 balls) also in fine form.

Delhi, after being put into bat by new Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin, scored 166-7.

“For years, I’ve been branded a test cricketer,” Rahul said. “It’s good for me to be up there, creating history and breaking records. Hope to continue this way.”

The 17-year-old spinner Mujeebur Rahman picked up 2-28 off four overs and the Afghan also ran out top scorer Gautam Gambhir (55) to cap a dream IPL debut as the youngest-ever player.

Rahul gave Punjab a rollicking start when he smashed three fours and two sixes off seamers Trent Boult and Mohammad Shami’s first two overs of the innings.

He raised his half-century when wayward legspinner Amit Mishra (0-46) was hit for 24 off his first five deliveries — 4-6-6-4-4 — before the right-hander missed out on Boult’s low full toss and was caught off a leading edge at short third man.

Earlier, Mujeeb didn’t show any nerves over bowling on a big stage when he had Colin Munro leg before wicket off his third delivery after Ashwin showed faith in the spinner by bringing him on in only the third over. Munro was trapped plumb in front of the wicket while going for a reverse sweep.

Delhi struggled to put on runs against some tidy Punjab bowling as it slipped to 123-5 in 15 overs. Rishabh Pant (28) misread Mujeeb’s googly and sliced a catch in the deep, before Gambhir couldn’t beat Mujeeb’s strong throw.

Delhi’s overseas players Chris Morris (27 not out) and Daniel Christian (13 not out) lifted the total in the end, but it proved too little with Rahul plundering the Delhi bowlers early on and Nair providing a perfect finish to the run chase.

“We got a decent total, but the first six overs took the game away from us,” Gambhir said. “Credit to the bowlers to take it till the 19th over, I thought that was a tremendous effort.”

At Eden Gardens, Narine’s brisk half century lifted Kolkata to 177-6 in 18.5 overs after Bangalore lost its momentum and was restricted to 176-7.

AB de Villiers (44 off 23) and captain Virat Kohli (31 off 33) were going strong before falling to part-time spinner Nitish Rana in the 15th over and Bangalore got 44 off its last five overs after being put into bat.

De Villiers smashed Rana for a six off the first ball but holed out at mid on and Kohli missed out on a fuller delivery and was clean bowled.

“We were 15 short with the bat, myself included,” Kohli said. “Me and AB getting out in two balls to a part-timer was game-changing as well.”

West Indies left-hander Narine hit five sixes and four boundaries before he played on to Umesh Yadav in the sixth over.

England’s Chris Woakes picked up 3-36, but Narine had done enough damage at the top.

Captain Dinesh Karthik (35 not out), leading Kolkata after Gambhir switched to Delhi in this year’s IPL, eased the run-chase when he combined in a half-century stand with Rana, who scored 34 off 25 balls.