Over the last few weeks, multiple teams have been guilty of not giving their most dangerous hitters enough time in the middle. Andre Russell spoke of this on Friday, after coming in at No. 6 against Royal Challengers Bangalore when Kolkata Knight Riders needed 135 to win off 49 balls. Russell's 25-ball 65 nearly won the match from that impossible position, but he himself felt his team might have actually crossed the line if he had walked in earlier.
In today's afternoon match, Knight Riders were probably guilty once again of waiting too long to unleash Russell against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Knight Riders were batting first, and had already consumed 15.3 overs when Russell came in at No. 7. Sunrisers eventually raced past their target of 160 with five full overs to spare.
Royal Challengers may have made the same mistake in the evening game against Chennai Super Kings. Their most in-form hitter was Moeen Ali, who had made 50 off 32 and 66 off 28 in his last two innings, both times batting at No. 4. Today, however, they sent in Moeen at No. 6, when they only had 4.2 overs left in their innings.
One reason for this may have been the fact that Parthiv Patel was at the crease when Royal Challengers lost their second and third wickets. They sent in right-handers Akshdeep Nath and Marcus Stoinis at Nos. 4 and 5, suggesting that they wanted to maintain a left-right combination in the middle.
But Parthiv's presence was enough reason for Royal Challengers to send in their most dangerous, in-form hitter.
Parthiv has been a pretty handy batsman in the Powerplay overs of late - his strike rate in that phase since the 2017 IPL season is 142.42. But he has shown a clear tendency to slow down after the field restrictions are relaxed. Since the 2017 season, he has the second-worst strike rate in the post-Powerplay overs among all batsmen in the IPL who have faced 150 or more balls in that phase.
As it happened, Parthiv scored quicker than usual from the seventh over onwards, scoring 37 off 26 (SR of 142.31) in that period to finish with 53 off 37 balls. But his partnerships with Nath and Stoinis came at a manageable rate for Super Kings, who wouldn't have been too unhappy giving away a combined 66 off 53 balls to the third- and fourth-wicket pairs.
Moeen eventually came in with no time to get his eye in, and still made 26 off 16 balls. Did his late entry prevent Royal Challengers from posting a substantially bigger total than 161?
Hello, Dale Steyn. Bye bye, new-ball worries
In their first eight matches this season, Royal Challengers took all of three wickets in the Powerplay overs. That's three wickets in 48 overs. Before today, their bowlers averaged a whopping 144.33 in the Powerplay this season.
In their next two matches, they've taken seven Powerplay wickets at an average of 9.85.
Ten matches isn't a massive sample size, nor is 60 overs, and this sort of statistical swing isn't uncommon - think of a team losing only one wicket in the first 40 overs of an ODI, and five in the last 10 overs - so we can't read a great deal of cause-and-effect into these numbers. But Royal Challengers' sudden increase in new-ball potency, statistically significant or not, coincides with the arrival of a handy new-ball operator, Dale Steyn.
In these last two matches - his first since joining Royal Challengers as a mid-season replacement for Nathan Coulter-Nile - Steyn has bowled six Powerplay overs, taking four wickets at an average of 9.50. Against Super Kings, he took two first-over wickets, off successive balls: Shane Watson nicking an outswinger to slip, Suresh Raina beaten comprehensively by a wicked first-ball yorker.