Eight runs off 26 balls: How do you recover from a start like that?
We are just about a third of the way into the IPL league phase and, already, quite a lot has been written about the importance of getting off the blocks quickly. Given how easily totals have been chased down this season, it is clear that no team can afford a slow start batting first.
Delhi Daredevils' Gautam Gambhir and Jason Roy did just that, totalling 8 runs off 26 balls. That's a combined strike rate of 30.76, a figure so abysmal it is the second-worst for an opening pair in IPL history (minimum 20 balls). As good as Royal Challengers Bangalore's Umesh Yadav and Chris Woakes were in the first few overs, both Gambhir and Roy failed to connect often enough, and when they did, kept finding fielders. This is 2018, where the average Powerplay score batting first has been 52.
Daredevils' Powerplay yielded just 28 for the loss of two wickets, and despite Rishabh Pant's impressive recovery act, they ended at a sub-par 174 for 5, a total that was never going to be enough at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
RCB's death-bowling woes: What can they do about it?
In four games, Royal Challengers Bangalore have now conceded 250 runs off 109 balls in the death overs, and their economy rate of 13.76 is comfortably the worst in the competition. On Saturday night, they conceded 70 runs off their last five, and their bowling unit now holds three of the five worst aggregates this season. With Umesh Yadav proving successful in the Powerplay, Virat Kohli exhausted all of his overs before the halfway mark. However, he held back two of Yuzvendra Chahal's overs for Glenn Maxwell and the death overs. Chahal was their most successful bowler on the night, but, with two left-handers in Pant and Rahul Tewatia at the crease during the last five overs, Kohli opted not to finish his wristspinner's quota of four overs.
The knock-on effect had Corey Anderson having to bowl the final over, his first of the game. Pant feasted on all that pace, taking 50 runs by himself in the last five overs. It did not hurt Royal Challengers tonight, thanks to Daredevils' sedate start, but they've already been defeated twice precisely due to these death-bowling woes. Will a thumping win force a change in approach (and team combination)?
Can the real Chris Morris stand up?
Daredevils have their own death-bowling issues, and that is partly down to Chris Morris not firing for them yet. Morris has been the darling of IPL teams - both real-life and fantasy - in recent times, and for good reason. He was one of Daredevils' retained players, thanks to his proven capabilities as a top-class finisher with the bat and an effective bowler at the death.
This season, he has found the going particularly tough, conceding over 10 runs an over, picking up just three wickets from the first four games. On Saturday, he came close to dismissing Virat Kohli twice, but ended up wicketless after being taken apart by de Villiers and Mandeep Singh.
Daredevils also have made a habit of sending Rahul Tewatia (once, even Vijay Shankar) ahead of him in the batting order, possibly as a tactic to counter the wristspin threat with a left-hander who can tonk the ball. With all due respect, few late-order tonkers tonk it as well as Morris does (first 10 balls strike rate 171.87, with a boundary every 4.2 balls at the death since IPL 2015). As a result, a game-changing death-overs hitter has found himself held back too late. On Saturday, he ended up not facing even a single ball.
Daredevils' alumnus AB hurts them once again
Delhi Daredevils' team director TA Sekhar once spoke about the number of illustrious IPL alumni from his side who have excelled elsewhere in the years gone by: David Warner, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell (since reacquired) and others of their ilk. It is not necessarily a thing to be proud of, given how much de Villiers has taken to smashing them at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. He now averages almost 94 from six innings against them here, and his 90 not out is his highest score against them.
What stood out in this innings was how distanced it was from his usual "360-degree" hitting. Exactly half of his runs (45) came through a 45-degree plot around deep midwicket, the highest proportion he has hit into that region in the IPL while scoring 50-plus runs. Over the past couple of games, his big hits found fielders in the deep. This time, they found the Chinnaswamy roof.