Why did Sunrisers delay Rashid v Kohli?
Kane Williamson has rationed his use of Rashid Khan in the Powerplays this season, even when his side has had a small total to defend. Against Kings XI Punjab, he had held Rashid back till the end of the Powerplay against Chris Gayle, who had carted him in Mohali earlier. Here, with just 146 on the board and Manan Vohra - one of the few batsmen who had managed to get the better of him last season - in the middle, the reasoning could well have been along the same lines once again. Kohli, who had never faced Rashid in T20s before this game, feasted on Shakib Al Hasan's slow left-arm offerings in the meanwhile, taking 15 runs off the fifth over as Royal Challengers raced to 55 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay.
Rashid came on in the seventh over, as he has done in almost every game this season, and almost had Kohli caught at slip, only for Williamson to put down a sitter. Interestingly enough, Rashid went on to bowl three overs on the trot for only the third time this season, a clear plan to try and get rid of Kohli and de Villiers. Having come extremely close to dismissing Kohli, he went on to dismiss de Villiers, who inside-edged a wrong'un into his stumps.
Sunrisers were defending low totals against Mumbai and Royals in those two previous instances, and Rashid turned the game for his side both times. Kohli and de Villiers have carried Royal Challengers' batting once again this season, and Williamson could well have resisted the temptation to attack early on to counter their threat in the middle overs.
Why Moeen Ali?
After the first 38 games of the season, every one of England's 12 representatives had played a game except Moeen Ali. With the out-of-sorts Quinton de Kock back home in South Africa to attend Theunis de Bruyn's wedding and Brendon McCullum not quite finding his touch, Moeen seemed like the final throw of the overseas-player dice from RCB. They have now used 20 players this season, the joint-most along with Chennai Super Kings.
Moeen opened the bowling and returned 2-0-8-0 in the Powerplay, before leaking 11 runs in his final over. With the bat, he adopted an attacking approach, hitting a couple of streaky boundaries before edging one to the keeper. In all, it was a lukewarm debut against the tournament's best bowling side, and, with every remaining game a virtual knockout, one that could be good enough to keep his place.
Does anyone do the 20th over better than Bhuvneshwar Kumar?
Not really, and there are strong enough reasons to say so. No one except Dwayne Bravo has bowled more final overs than him since IPL 2015, and no one with 50-plus balls has a better economy rate than him. On average, 20th overs in the IPL have gone for 10.58; Bhuvneshwar goes at 8.03. While wickets matter little in this phase of the game, he gets one every 8.5 balls, once again the best among those who have bowled over 50 balls.
Against Royal Challengers, he fared even better, defending 12 runs successfully against a marauding Colin de Grandhomme, landing yorkers and giving him nothing in his hitting arc. Conceding six runs in the final over of a chase might be a pipe dream for most T20 bowlers, but it is just about par for course for Bhuvneshwar. In chases since IPL 2015, his final overs go at an incredible 6.83 an over, bettered only by Chris Morris among those who have bowled more than 24 balls.
Bhuvneshwar's record has been significantly boosted over the years by Sunrisers' bowling depth, and that came to the fore once again when Siddarth Kaul's outstanding 19th over went for just seven runs. Sunrisers have been playing their own version of T20 cricket for a while now, but their knack of defending such low totals almost every single time is only strengthening their reputation as one of the format's most feared bowling attacks.