Yuvraj Singh warmed many old hearts with his fluent bat swing and epic timing as he picked Yuzvendra Chahal for three consecutive sixes in Bengaluru. Against Kings XI on Saturday, though, he struggled to get going against their wristspinner Murugan Ashwin.
Yuvraj has traditionally been a good player of legspin, but his recent IPL numbers don't make for great reading: he's been dismissed nine times by legspinners in 25 innings since 2015, averaging 17.4 and striking it at 120. It is a steep fall from corresponding numbers of 57.5 and 164.1, and in line with his diminished IPL returns in recent years.
Ashwin immediately pushed Yuvraj on the backfoot, tossing a googly first ball to fox the veteran left-hander straightaway. It seemed like the Kings XI think tank had done their homework proper: Overall, Ashwin would end up bowling nine deliveries to Yuvraj, four of which were googlies. The last of those got him, as he went for the slog sweep only to be caught at deep square leg. The googly was Ashwin's go-to ball: he had 14 wrong 'uns, giving away 13 runs while picking a prize catch.
"The googlies were sticking on the pitch much more than the legspinners probably because of the over-spin, so I used them a lot more," Ashwin told Star Sports in the innings break.
His spell meant Mumbai Indians lost their way in the middle overs (7-15). In the previous two matches, despite losing wickets, they had accelerated, making 88 and 87 runs in those eight overs. Today they only managed 69. Ashwin bowled four of those: 7th, 9th, 12th, and 15th, ending up with exceptional figures of 4-0-25-2.
The omission of Mujeeb Ur Rehman might have surprised a few, but Ashwin made a telling statement as he finished Kings XI's best bowler.
Gayle-Rahul get off to their slowest start. What happened there?
Chris Gayle and KL Rahul managed just 38 in the Powerplay, their slowest return since joining forces last year. In comparison, Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock walloped 62 for Mumbai Indians. Rahul had smashed a 14-ball 50 last year in Mohali. Saturday was his slowest IPL start, while facing a minimum of 15 balls. Kings XI played out 20 dot balls in the first six overs, with Rahul playing out nine of those. And while Gayle had 28 (20 balls) to Rahul's 10 (16 balls), both batsmen struggled to counter the slowness of Lasith Malinga. But, their manner of offsetting the slow start made a telling difference.
First, Gayle broke the shackles with a couple of big sixes off Hardik Pandya, becoming the first IPL batsman to 300 sixes in the process. He fell soon trying to smoke another one into the stands, which brought Mayank Agarwal in.
Agarwal sets the pace, lets Rahul find his touch
Agarwal has been in scintillating touch so far this season. His 34-ball 58 came in a losing cause in a steep chase against Kolkata Knight Riders the other night, but back on home turf, he raced to 21 off 10 balls, even while Rahul found his range. Rahul hit just one boundary in his first 35 balls, his first six came off his 38th, but by then, Agarwal had played the impact innings of the game: a 21-ball 43 that had brought the equation down to 60 off 40 balls. Rahul eventually found his boundary-hitting form towards the end, finishing with an unbeaten 66 to take them home.