What’s with all the spin-heavy Powerplays?
Rajasthan Royals’ decision to open with Jos Buttler had paid dividends in a rain-curtailed chase against Delhi Daredevils, but Kings XI Punjab avoided a repeat of that carnage by reacting quickly to his early onslaught on Sunday.
After R Ashwin’s economical first over got rid of D’Arcy Short, Buttler made use of Ankit Rajpoot’s pace and shorter lengths by taking 12 off five balls in the second over. Buttler’s strength against pace is well-known (T20 strike rate: 151.70, versus 126.80 against spin) and Ashwin immediately brought on his frontline spinners, Axar Patel and Mujeeb ur Rahman, to take the pace off the ball and keep things tight.
The three spinners conceded just 28 off their five overs, picking up two wickets and keeping Rajasthan down to 45 in the Powerplay. Only once has a side bowled more than five overs of spin in the Powerplay in IPL history, and Kings XI are already the fourth side in IPL 2018 to have bowled five of their first six overs with spinners. It is a tactic that has yielded mixed results for other sides, but it has worked for Kings XI.
Ashwin does a McCullum
During the 2015 ODI World Cup, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was praised for using his strike bowlers through the middle overs to pick up wickets, instead of holding them back for the later stages of the innings.
On a night when his bowling changes in the Powerplay worked well, Ashwin targeted Royals’ Achilles heel – their middle-overs batting. Royals have lost the most wickets in this phase this season, and have the second-worst run rate.
Ashwin exploited this weakness by using Mujeeb’s entire quota, apart from his own, and was rewarded with four wickets for 65 runs, a return that swung the game their way.
Why was Rahul declared not out by the TV umpire?
With Kings XI needing 52 off 32 balls, Rahul cut Jaydev Unadkat to Sanju Samson at point. Samson caught the ball close to the turf, and claimed it instantly. The on-field umpires, after a long discussion, referred the decision to the TV umpire, after declaring their “soft signal” to be not-out.
For a not-out soft signal to be overturned by the TV umpire, there needs to be conclusive proof that the ball was caught cleanly by the fielder. Samson’s catch seemed legit from front-on camera angles, but the side angle indicated the ball might have kissed the turf before falling into his hands. Eventually, the decision was not overturned, much to the disappointment of the Royals players and support staff.
Did Rahul pace the chase to perfection?
That not-out decision divided Rahul’s innings into two different phases. Until then, he had been a top-order anchor, making 42 off 39 balls. But unlike Jos Buttler, and unlike Ajinkya Rahane earlier in the tournament, Rahul smashed 42 off his last 15 balls, taking his side home with an over to spare.
Rahul once again papered over widening cracks in Kings XI’s batting order, with three of six batsmen falling for single-digit scores. Their middle order (positions 4 to 7) averages 21.3, the second worst in the league, and they have found the going tough when Rahul and Gayle have failed.