Why did Karthik bat ahead of Morgan?
Eoin Morgan nearly took the Kolkata Knight Riders to a come-from-behind win with his stunning 44 off 18 balls, during which he tore into Kagiso Rabada. So why did he not bat at No. 5 ahead of Dinesh Karthik?
With two specialist finishers in their line-up - Andre Russell and Morgan - the Knight Riders' idea was probably to not bat them close together in the middle overs. Russell, who has said in the past he wants to bat in the middle order more, was sent in at No. 4 in the ninth over and out in the tenth, so the Knight Riders probably wanted to hold Morgan back. It didn't work, however, because Karthik has not been scoring much of late.
Another idea could have been to retain the left-right combination by sending out Karthik when left-hand batsman Nitish Rana was in the middle after Russell was dismissed. Retaining the left-right combination is a ploy teams often use to disrupt the rhythm of the bowlers.
Should Russell have played the shot which got him out against Rabada?
It was clear that Rabada had been brought back for the tenth over to dismiss Russell, who had faced just three balls before till then. Russell had dominated Rabada in T20s - 36 runs off 13 balls without a dismissal - before Saturday, but the fast bowler is the Capitals' best bowler by a distance.
Russell nearly had the better of him again, though, smashing a four and a six in the first four balls of the over - which only makes you wonder why he swung for the hills on the fifth ball, with 10 runs already having come off the over. The risk was too high for that shot. He could have played out the remaining two balls and opted to target one of the relatively weaker bowlers, Harshal Patel or Marcus Stoinis, later on.
How good was Mishra in his two overs?
The experienced Amit Mishra was brought on by the Capitals as soon as the powerplay ended. He coaxed a leading edge first ball off Shubman Gill's bat with a slow legbreak and conceded only two in the over, mixing things up with speed variations, slipping in a slider, and nearly taking a return catch to dismiss Rana on the third ball, but hurting his bowling hand in the process.
In his next over Mishra got rid of Gill, drawing a big top edge that was taken by the keeper Rishabh Pant, and didn't offer much room to Russell, who was using his high back lift to swing out. His injured hand, though, cut short his spell and he finished with figures of 2-0-14-1.
How did Russell manage 2 for 29 off four overs in Sharjah?
Russell hadn't bowled much this IPL - only four overs in all in the Knight Riders' three games before Saturday. But against the Capitals, despite Sharjah's short boundaries, he ended up bowling all four for impressive figures of 2 for 29.
While he has bowled at the death recently, he came on for the seventh and ninth overs against the Capitals, possibly because of his record against Shreyas Iyer in T20s: 48 balls, 59 runs and five dismissals. Russell did not dismiss Iyer this time, but his clever mix of bouncers, yorkers and cutters meant his first two overs went for only seven runs. Russell returned later on and though he leaked 15 in the 18th over he got rid of the rampaging Pant, and then conceded only seven in the 20th over that comprised mostly slower balls, a quick short ball and a yorker.
Why did Ashwin bowl just two overs?
R Ashwin returned from shoulder injury, at the expense of Axar Patel, who has been extremely frugal in the tournament so far - he has a stunning economy rate of 4.60 from 10 overs in three games.
Ashwin probably edged Axar out because of his experience, but ended up leaking 26 runs in his first two overs, especially taken apart by Rana (19 off seven balls with two sixes). The Capitals might have thought of giving him more overs once Rana departed in the 13th over, but they brought back Anrich Nortje, who had been bowling well, and then decided to stick with Harshal Patel in the 15th over after his 13th-over double-strike. Later on in the chase, it would have been too risky to bowl a spinner, so Ashwin didn't get another over.
Why did a batsman replace Kuldeep in KKR's XI?
First of all, Kuldeep Yadav hasn't been bowling as well as he used to. Secondly, the Knight Riders played two other frontline spinners in Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy on Saturday. Thirdly, they had as many as seven bowling options in their previous game - Russell didn't even get a bowl - against the Rajasthan Royals. Given all that context, they probably felt replacing a bowler with a batsman in Rahul Tripathi could mean they could go all out with the bat at the batsman-friendly ground in Sharjah. And the move nearly worked as Tripathi scored a dazzling 36 off 16 balls at the business end of the chase.