No Russell, big problem
Kolkata Knight Riders are the most dangerous batting unit in the death overs (last four) this season. Before today, they had struck 29 sixes in this period of the game - easily the most of all the teams in the competition - and had accumulated their runs at a jaw-dropping, table-topping strike-rate of 212.71.
On Sunday, they managed only 19 runs off their last 24 balls...with no boundaries. It was their worst death-overs performance while batting first in IPL history.
One massive reason for that was Imran Tahir getting rid of Andre Russell in the 15th over with a clever piece of bowling, when he lowered the trajectory of his legbreak to ensure that the big hit, if it came - and it did come - would go off the bottom of the bat. Russell had hit 21 of those 29 death-overs sixes.
But there was still work to do - and it had to be done by one of CSK's weaker bowlers.
Shardul Thakur came into this game with a Smart Economy Rate of 11.41, which places him 44th out of 49 players who have bowled at least 10 overs this IPL.
But here - on a pitch that top-scorer Chris Lynn called slightly two-paced - he showed smarts by hitting the deck while also ensuring he didn't give the batsman too much room, slipping in a few knuckle balls and even nailing a couple of picture-perfect yorkers. The 18th and 20th overs, which he bowled, went for four runs each.
Catching Super Kings
Prior to this game, Chennai Super Kings had created 45 catching chances and dropped only six of them. For a team that has repeatedly admitted its limitations as a fielding unit - seriously, they sound almost apologetic when they talk about it in press conferences - that's damn good.
And there's a reason for it. MS Dhoni's captaincy is all about the lengths he wants his bowlers to hit because he's very good at extrapolating where the batsmen would then hit the ball. And with that knowledge, he can put his better fielders in those hot spots. Such as Faf du Plessis at long-off; he picked up two catches. Young substitute fielder Dhruv Shorey was at long-on - Russell gets A LOT of his runs there - and he pulled off a splendid diving catch to get rid of the West Indian. Ravindra Jadeja is usually at point in the Powerplay and at deep midwicket in the slog. Sometimes that means weaker fielders end up inside the circle and that's how misfields happen, but hey, CSK have clearly showed it's worth the gamble.
The Shubam Gill question
He has all the shots. He just rarely gets any time to play them for KKR. Today, he came in at No. 7 with 5.1 overs left and finished with 15 off 20 balls.
Gill is really a top-order batsman. That's where he plays for his domestic team Punjab and when KKR allow him to open, he strikes at 163. And that strike-rate drops steadily the lower he goes: 137 at No. 4, 135 at No. 6 and only 117 at No. 7.
Classical batsmen like Gill need to bat at the top in T20 cricket, when the ball is new and the field is up. Otherwise, they're wasted. But with KKR already having an outrageously successful opening combination, that is unlikely to happen.
Jadeja the finisher
His most famous moment was being caught on the boundary and still winning the game for CSK. That's when all the Sir Jadeja jokes eupted. The ridiculousness of that moment aside - it was the last ball of a tight chase and RP Singh overstepped - there was reason to doubt the allrounder's suitability to the role of finisher. Before Sunday, he had a strike-rate of 140 between overs 16 and 20. Most of the CSK players below that mark are bowlers.
All that didn't matter as he defied convention, once again, this time through pure skill.
Dhoni had fallen and that took his team's chances of victory from 55% at the start of the 15th over to 47% a mere four balls into it. KKR were sensing an upset. But in walked Jadeja and drove the fifth ball he faced for a four. It was full, mid-off was up, it was all very elementary - and that's what Jadeja does better now. He doesn't panic in these situations. He plays them out.
In the 19th over, with 24 still needed, he struck a hat-trick of fours, starting with an audacious, down-the-track swat to the long-off boundary, and killed the contest.
For more context, a man who had previously only hit 20 fours (he has 17 sixes though) between overs 16 and 20 in his entire IPL career hammered five of them in this one innings alone.