Has Narine solved the short-ball puzzle?
Oppositions have worked out that the way to get Sunil Narine out early is to have their seamers bang it in short to him. Kings XI tried the same tactic - of the 18 balls their seamers bowled to Narine, 12 were short or short of a length. But Narine survived and went on to score 75 off 26 balls. So has he figured out how to deal with the short stuff? Not quite. Narine's control percentage against those short balls was just 33.33%. He got a bit lucky that his mis-controlled pulls didn't end up in a skied catch.
Hey Ashwin, what happened to the legbreak?
Before this IPL season, there was buzz that R Ashwin had taught himself to bowl wristspin. And when the tournament began, Ashwin showed he could not just bowl a legbreak, but also control it. He switched to legspin almost every time a right-hander came to the crease and bowled 37 wristspin balls across Kings XI's first six games, taking 2 wickets and conceding at 7.78 an over.
For the past five games, though, the legbreak has been absent. It's possible Ashwin has found it hard to sustain what is a completely new skill for him through an entire season or that he has spotted something amiss with his technique and wants to work on it further. But he may have to bring it back soon. His smart economy-rate for the tournament has shot up to 8.39, high for a specialist bowler, after he got taken for 36 runs in 2.4 overs against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Hey Ashwin, how about a third man and a deep fine?
IPL captains often have third man and fine leg in the circle, but they usually use the tactic on slow pitches, on which it's difficult for batsmen to use the pace and guide the ball behind the stumps. The Indore pitch was a true one. So true that Dinesh Karthik could play several standing up reverse paddles against seamers. But Ashwin kept persisting with a short third man, a short fine leg and a backward point in the circle. And Knight Riders capitalised, scoring a third of their runs behind the wicket.
Fifteen of the 24 fours Knight Riders struck were behind the wicket, several of them beating the ring fielders there. Most of the boundaries hit in front of the wicket were sixes, which left the boundary riders there redundant, so it may have made sense to have men back on the fine boundaries instead. It didn't help that a statuesque Chris Gayle was often occupying one of the positions in the ring behind the wicket.
KKR protect their wristspinners
After watching Kings XI's spinners get hit for 116 off nine overs on the small Holkar Stadium ground, KKR ensured eight of the first 10 overs of the chase were bowled by seamers. The only two overs of spin were delivered by their best bowler, Sunil Narine. Wristspinners Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla were not introduced till the 12th over and bowled just four overs between them.
It was a risky approach from KKR, as their seamers had been the most expensive among all teams in the tournament, but Andre Russell's best bowling performance of the season came to their rescue.