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Why did Kings XI field three spinners? 'Pace off the ball', explains Ryan Harris

R Ashwin celebrates a wicket with his team-mates BCCI

The obvious question after the toss in Mohali on Monday was why Kings XI Punjab had picked three spinners when Delhi Capitals had three seamers in their bowling line-up? One of them must have got it wrong.

The answer was a combination of the pitch, the form of the three main spinners - R Ashwin, Murugan Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rahman - and, importantly, the importance of taking the pace off the ball while defending a target, which, incidentally, captain Ashwin didn't want to do - he said he wanted to bat first.

In the last two matches in Mohali prior to Monday's game, teams batting second had chased down big scores: Aaron Finch's Australia chased down 359 with 13 balls to spare in an ODI against India in March, while Kings XI chased down 177 with eight balls to spare in their first home game of IPL 2019, against Mumbai Indians.

According to Ryan Harris, the Kings XI bowling coach, the idea was to take the pace off the ball and make scoring as difficult as possible.

"We were probably about 25 short and we backed ourselves to defend it against this batting line-up against our spinners and that's why we played three spinners and we also got Sam [Curran] to open the batting" R ASHWIN

"It's really hard to defend, we've seen that over the last couple of weeks," Harris told the host broadcaster after the victory. "You have to get a big score on the board to try and defend and even that's too hard, we saw in a one-day here a few weeks ago as well.

"I think (we took) a bit of pace off the ball. Chris Gayle didn't play today so we thought bringing Sam [Curran] in as well helped, but with Mujeeb coming back in as well it took a little bit of pace off the ball."

According to Ashwin, once Gayle had been ruled out, the decision to promote allrounder Curran as an opener was taken quickly. Ashwin said placing Curran in the top order also allowed him room to play three spinners, who he was confident would play a dominant role defending the target of 166, which he said was well short of the desired total.

"We were probably about 25 short and we backed ourselves to defend it against this batting line-up against our spinners and that's why we played three spinners and we also got Sam to open the batting," Ashwin said to the host broadcaster after the dramatic win, where Delhi lost a record seven wickets for just eight runs.

"We wanted to bat first and we wanted to back our spinners, because M Ashwin bowled really well in the last game and that's a theme that we would like to follow but hopefully it depends on the wicket. We thought there was a bit of grip on this one."

All said, the three spinners were the most expensive of the Kings XI bowlers - Ashwin went at 7.75 per over, but the other Ashwin, Murugan, had an economy rate of 9.50, and Mujeeb at 9. Ashwin got two wickets, but the others did not, and Curran (4 for 11) and Mohammed Shami (2 for 27) made the difference in the end, Kings XI picking up seven wickets for eight runs as Delhi sank from 144 for 3 to 152 all out.

"We probably haven't nailed our starts with the ball," Harris agreed. "We spoke about that a lot as well. (But) we came back well at the death, as we did again tonight. So if we nail our starts, we should be a hard side to beat."