From best to worst - Bhuvneshwar's fall at death
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is counted among the best death bowlers in limited-overs cricket. Is that fact in danger of fast turning into a myth?
This IPL, Bhuvneshwar has been the most expensive bowler in the final four overs: 17-20. He has leaked 72 runs in two matches at an economy rate of 18, including 13 boundaries. Three of the five most expensive overs of the tournament have been bowled by him.
The contrast between his numbers with the new ball and death is vast: in Powerplays, batsmen have found it hard to dominate Bhuvneshwar: 20 runs in four overs, conceding just three fours.
On Friday, Bhuvneshwar had just given 10 runs in his two-over spell in the Powerplay. With Rashid Khan bowled out, Bhuvneshwar was their key bowler at the death. However, Sanju Samson took advantage of the slow speeds, the faltering in execution of the yorkers, to punch inside-out strokes and pick 24 runs in the 18th over. Then Ben Stokes, who struggled to get going early on, found his range in the final over. Bhuvneshwar's death overs read 2-0-45-0.
Since the 2018 IPL, Bhuvneshwar has given away 210 runs from 103 balls at the death, making him the third-most expensive bowler in the tournament. Compare that with an economy rate of 8.95 in the previous two seasons, and you can get a sense of Bhuvneshwar's steep fall.
Sunrisers max out Powerplay again to set up chase
Dot balls. Gold dust for bowlers. Gold for batsmen if they can keep the dot-ball count minimal. So far this IPL, Sunrisers have played out the least number of dots in the first 10 overs. It was little surprise then that they are the only team to string together consecutive century opening partnerships.
On Friday, in the first half of their innings, barring the fourth over from Jofra Archer which went for three runs, David Warner and Jonny Bairstow hit at least one boundary in every over, backing it up with a single or two, to disrupt Rajasthan Royals' plans. ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster had Sunrisers' win probability up at 74%, only going down to 58% at the fall of Bairstow's wicket.
In their opening match against Kolkata Knight Riders, the Warner- Bairstow combine had compiled 92 runs at the halfway stage. There were 20 dots, 23 singles and 12 boundaries. Against Royals on Friday, they were even better: 115 runs, playing out just 14 dots, 21 singles, and racking up 18 boundaries.
In the face of a steep target, Warner exploded against every bowler, as Sunrisers blasted 69 runs in the Powerplay, the highest for the season. They also happen to be the only team to not have lost a wicket in the first six overs. Their run rate of 10.25 in the Powerplay against Royals is vastly higher than the rest of the pack, who have all hovered around the 8.5 mark.
Royals reverse 2018 trend, switch on after Powerplay
Rajasthan Royals' first four overs got them just 22 runs, with the loss of Jos Buttler early on to Rashid Khan. That became 45 by the end of the Powerplay, usually the point when their slowdown began last season. Ajinkya Rahane would struggle to get going with the field spread out, and the rest of their middle order would get choked as a result.
Those holes were plugged to a large extent by promoting Buttler to the top of the order, a pivotal point in their season's turnaround. Buttler made half of Royals' runs since then, and his five fifties were two more than the rest of their batsmen put together. On Friday night, all that changed. Buttler went cheaply, and it was Rahane who stepped on the gas after six overs. He smashed 50 off 29 after the Powerplay, a strike rate of 172 that was his third-best in IPL history in that period.
When Rahane perished going for quick runs, Sanju Samson took it to a whole new level against the lacklustre Bhuvneshwar Kumar, carting him for 24 runs in the 18th over, before Ben Stokes found his range in the final over to raze 21 more against the same bowler.
A total of 198, 63 of which came in the final four overs. The complete antithesis of Royals 2018.
Rashid Khan comes in early, strikes gold
During the warm-up before the match, Rashid Khan was spinning the football on his index finger as if it was a needle. Commentator Harsha Bhogle went to check if the finger and the football were glued together. Sunrisers Hyderabad's most valuable player is used to doing unthinkable things.
A short while later, Rashid walked in to bowl the fourth over of the match. It is rare to see him bowl so early in the Powerplay. In fact, only once in IPL history has Rashid bowled before the fourth over of an innings. Before Friday, he had five Powerplay wickets from 96 balls at an economy rate of 6.90.
However, the one main reason Rashid came on early was to eliminate the threat of Jos Buttler. Rashid had dismissed the England batsman thrice before in T20s, twice in IPL, while giving away just four runs off eight balls. Add to that the fact that Buttler has faced a fair bit of Sunrisers' other bowlers, without ever being dismissed against any of them.
Buttler was not surprised seeing Rashid though. The first ball was a googly which he read well. The next one, Buttler moved outside the line, attempting a slog sweep, and was bowled around his legs. The ball had pitched on middle and leg, and it held its line to break the stumps. Two balls was what Rashid took to eliminate the most dangerous opposition batsman. Job done, Kane Williamson didn't bowl Rashid any further in the Powerplay, saving him for tougher overs ahead.
With additional inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman