Wasting Rahul Tripathi again
Rahul Tripathi burst on the scene last year as a swashbuckling opener who danced down at the quicks and used their pace to his advantage. He was given a precise role: go all out at the top and don't bother too much about playing long innings. In only five of his 12 innings last season did Tripathi last past the Powerplay. His strike rate was 158 in the Powerplay, 123 in the middle overs and 111 at the death. It was clear he was best utilised at the top, something surely his then Royal Pune Supergiant team-mate and current Rajasthan Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane is aware of?
Rahane, though, also has a problem unique to Royals. Rahane himself loves to bat at the top, while Royals also have Sanju Samson whom they want to give as many balls to face as possible, and D'Arcy Short who has a big affinity for pace on the ball. Even if Royals asked Tripathi to make a sacrifice for the team's sake, you would have thought that after four games, and especially when they were dropping Short, they would move this high-impact player to the station where he makes maximum impact.
You had another think coming. Just when you thought Tripathi was going back to his usual position, Rahane walked out with Heinrich Klaasen, opening only for the fifth time in his 50-match T20 career, with a reputation for being a big hitter at the death and in the middle overs. Not only did Klaasen fail, Tripathi, batting at No. 6, was stuck in the phase where his strike rate is the worst.
Solos required, solos delivered
Chennai Super Kings are aware they don't have the most balanced squad. They know they won't be worth a plus-10 in the field. They are one of the weaker bowling units in this competition. They know they have issues. But people who follow IPL closely also know one thing: there is a way around it. Players can win you matches single-handedly, and if you win seven of your 14 you are in with a good chance to progress. Including this win, two of Super Kings' big guns have won them a match each on their own: Dwayne Bravo against Mumbai Indians and Shane Watson here in Pune. Sam Billings has provided the surprise solo to win the game against Kolkata Knight Riders. Now if they can put Suresh Raina down for two and a couple of repeat shows here and there, Super Kings have a good shout at the playoffs.
Stokes tries to do a Kohli then pulls out
When Virat Kohli scored his first 40 runs at a strike rate of 111 in a chase of 214 the other night, there was frustration around at his apparent lack of intent to score boundaries. It turned out Kohli wanted to bat through the innings and limit the net-run-rate damage because with big wickets gone at the other end, the win was an extremely long shot. On Friday night in Pune, for a long time it seemed Ben Stokes was playing a similar role. He wasn't particularly struggling against Super Kings in the chase of 205 but he didn't quite push on either. By the time Imran Tahir came on for the 14th over of the innings, Stokes had scored 38 off 33 balls. This is a damaging innings in a one-off T20 but the net run rate assumes importance in these leagues. Four of the 10 previous sets of playoff qualifiers have been decided on net-run-rate. Then again, Stokes pulled the trigger early. Kohli went through with the plan of batting through the innings. Stokes hit Tahir for one six, and tried to follow it up with another, holing out. The rest collapsed, and Royals lost by 64. Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore, by contrast, lost by 46. Will these margins prove decisive in the final equation?