David Miller and Glenn Maxwell were under fire coming into this match, and thus the whole Kings XI Punjab batting was under pressure. They had two problems. The pitches have been on the slower side, and fielding sides have kept their best bowlers for just after the Powerplay, a time when these two find themselves batting. In Kings XI's two defeats, both fell in the same over trying to play attacking shots. The other problem is that at Kings XI, they are not part of the kind of formidable batting line-ups they play in at international level, where they can afford to be carefree. Here they have to carry a line-up. Miller, though, said they couldn't afford to get too bogged down.
In these circumstances, the first thing Kings XI Punjab needed for a turnaround was to chase. To have a target in mind when batting. To take advantage of slowing teams down beforehand. Maxwell showed in the end that he relished not having to assess the conditions and work towards a total.
Teams often use the cliché that they are not bothered about what the other team is up to, but it makes sense at times not to let them do what they are dying to do. In the nine matches before this, sides fielding first had won. The coin went up, MS Dhoni called right and for a moment Miller, who had flicked the coin, would have thought, "here we go again". Then he heard Dhoni say his side wanted to bat. At the same venue in the World T20, Dhoni's India had beaten Australia chasing, but perhaps the afternoon start, perhaps the dryness of the pitch, made Rising Pune Supergiants opt to bat.
Seam for Sandeep
The Powerplays in Mohali had produced 52 for 0, 59 for 1, 52 for 0 and 55 for 0 for sides batting first in the last four games: one in this IPL and three in the World T20. So while Kings XI might have made an error in introducing spin early - Axar Patel and Pardeep Sahu conceded 25 in their two overs - the Powerplay score of 49 for 1 wasn't that bad an effort. That was down to the seam movement Sandeep Sharma extracted at his home ground. On a dry pitch and an abrasive outfield, that seam movement is available all too briefly, but in his first spell of 3-0-17-1 Sandeep made full use of it. Ajinkya Rahane was repeatedly cramped for room and, at 10 for 0, played an un-Rahane-like slog to get bowled. Kings XI could now work at pulling Supergiants back.
Thisara Perera's promotion
Kings XI might have been slightly fortunate in dismissing Kevin Pietersen - a half-volley flicked straight to midwicket to end a 55-run partnership with Faf du Plessis - but it appeared as though more good fortune awaited them when Thisara Perera, a surprise selection in the first place, came in ahead of Steven Smith and MS Dhoni. Playing his first match for his sixth IPL franchise, Perera came in with hardly any batting form. In his last nine innings, he had passed 20 only once, and has reached a stage where his runs are considered a bit of a bonus by Sri Lanka. The idea could have been to split the right-hand batsmen - Supergiants' top six is comprised of right-hand batsmen - but Perera is no more than a pinch hitter. On a pitch that began to get difficult once the Powerplay gets done with, Supergiants might have been better served by a proper batsman looking to play a long innings. Perera's 2.1-over stay yielded only 11 runs for the team and made a big contribution towards generating momentum for Kings XI.
Du Plessis or not to du Plessis
"Superb" was the often-repeated adjective in the commentary box when describing Faf du Plessis' 53-ball 67, every time a sponsored package of replays of his shots was played. Du Plessis' knock looked spectacular because he played it in searing heat and under physical duress. However, this was the slowest half-century batting first in this IPL, played at a strike rate of 126.41 and consuming 53 balls. The team went at 126.67, and at 129.56 while he was in the middle, which was practically the whole innings. When you get the best of the conditions - hard ball, fresh pitch, seven fielders in the circle - it is your responsibility to make the big contribution batting first. When Pietersen got out, du Plessis was 33 off 22, a strike rate of 166.67, but got terribly stuck on a slowing pitch. His physical struggle meant quite a few twos were cut down to one. Steven Smith tried his best to take charge - at one point du Plessis had faced only seven balls in a set of five overs - but Supergiants never got that lift towards the end.
It can be a dilemma when a batsman is struggling physically and loses timing as the overs race by. He can start swinging for the hills - cricket is yet to become so innovative that struggling batsmen step on the wicket - but his ego keeps telling him he can overcome this patch. Du Plessis tried a mix of both - big hits, the old-fashioned grind - but in the end "superb" was too generous a description of his effort.
Mohit at the end
Mohit Sharma was brought back in the 18th over. He had two left. All the eggs were in his basket now. Kings XI had already done a good job, restricting Supergiants to 131 for 3 in 17 overs, but there was a late kick brewing. The 17th over had gone for 15. Mohit, though, read the conditions perfectly. He knew the pitch and the outfield were dry. He said the idea was to not become predictable, and bowl his slower ones into the pitch. His wickets of Smith, du Plessis and Dhoni in those last two overs, which went for just 12 runs, were the final blow for Supergiants' innings. The key was to be unpredictable, and not just bowl slower balls. He got Dhoni with an attempted yorker. One of Dhoni's preferred players at Chennai Super Kings had done his new side in.