Talking Points from the match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai.
Should the Royal Challengers look beyond Aaron Finch?
It had seemed like a smart buy at the auctions: buy an established, experienced and aggressive top-order batsman to spread the batting load away from Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers - but the Royal Challengers' acquisition of Aaron Finch hasn't quite panned out that way. He's played every match for the team this season, but the returns have been poor apart from a 35-ball 52 against the Mumbai Indians. His average this season is 20.66, but it's the strike rate of 109.73 that is the bigger problem. Devdutt Padikkal's good form has covered for Finch's lack of impetus at the top, but Padikkal also couldn't get going today, which meant the Royal Challengers had their lowest powerplay score in the tournament so far: 36 for 1.
Their options, if they drop Finch, are Moeen Ali or Josh Philippe. Both come with their advantages. Moeen offers an offspin option. He can slot into the middle order while Kohli goes back to opening. Philippe is also a multi-skilled player, and can take the gloves back from de Villiers if he's in the XI. Moreover, his natural spot is opening, so it would be a straight swap for Finch, while also giving the Royal Challengers the addition of de Villiers the fielder, which alone potentially adds/saves a fair few runs.
Why was N Jagadeesan promoted to No. 4 by CSK?
The main batsmen for the Super Kings have been Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu. Watson and du Plessis fell within the powerplay with their team stumbling to 25 for 2 in 5.4 overs. The asking rate was 10.12 and ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster tool put their winning probability at just 20.12%, a sharp fall already from having started the innings on more or less an even keel at 46.7%.
Why send a man on IPL debut in against that kind of asking rate? The Super Kings batted deep, which in theory should have given them the flexibility to go hard, regardless of wickets lost early. And in the likes of Sam Curran, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, they had just the type of batsmen who could be sent up the order to inject momentum in the chase when it was flagging. That is, of course, considering that MS Dhoni the finisher might have wanted to come in only during the second half. Curran and Jadeja would have provided a left-hand option too, to complement Rayudu, and both have shown in this very tournament that their hitting form is intact.
In the circumstances, Jagadeesan played as well as could be expected of him, making 33 off 28. His T20 strike rate coming into this game was 111.72, so his scoring rate here was about normal for him, making the choice to send him at No.4 more puzzling.
Was Virat Kohli's acceleration just right?
At the end of 14 overs, Virat Kohli was on 34 off 30, with the Royal Challengers on a not-too-hot 86 for 3. ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster had their predicted score at 144, below par even on a pitch where the ball wasn't coming on to the bat. That is when Kohli's score-at-will switch flicked on; he amassed 56 runs off his last 22 balls. He didn't play a single dot ball in the last six overs but, more importantly, he also smashed four sixes and two fours.
Kohli has done this sort of thing before. He was on 26 off 25 and then biffed 68 runs in his next 25 balls during his T20I best score of 94* against West Indies last December. Then, he had said, he initially "tried to hit the ball too hard" because India were chasing 208 for victory. In Dubai on Saturday, he didn't need to target a 200-plus score, so the first half of his innings was more about giving himself time to gauge the pace of the surface and play himself in. Once he had done that, he was unstoppable, even unfurling an AB de Villiers-esque paddle scoop to the fine-leg boundary.
Why did Bravo not complete his full quota?
Kohli had begun teeing off in the 15th over, which was bowled by Sam Curran. With five overs left in the innings, Dhoni had a variety of options to call on. Karn Sharma had one over remaining, Shardul Thakur had two, Curran himself had one, Deepak Chahar had one and Dwayne Bravo had two.
With a set Kohli joined by the big-hitting, left-hand batsman Shivam Dube, Dhoni opted to go with Sharma, Thakur, Curran, Thakur and Bravo in the remaining overs.
Thakur's first two overs had netted him 2 for 12, with cross seamers and hard lengths making scoring difficult. He had got AB de Villiers with a peach of a delivery, which made the decision to have him bowl both his remaining overs understandable even though he went for runs in both.
The decision to bowl Sharma's legspin despite Dube being there didn't go too badly either, with only eight runs conceded in the 16th over.
But, why did Curran bowl ahead of Bravo? In this IPL season so far, there has been a clear difference between Bravo's and Curran's death bowling, with Bravo far more economical. The left-arm angle the England allrounder offered might have played a part in Dhoni's decision to bowl him. And Curran's taken more wickets, which, again, might have been a consideration for Dhoni. It was a decision that backfired in the end, with Curran's final over going for 24 runs.
Why did Washington Sundar come in at No. 5 for RCB?
Before this match, Sundar had never batted higher than No. 6 at the IPL, and the majority of his innings had come at No. 8. However, he's no stranger to batting higher up the order, having done it for his state side Tamil Nadu often enough. He's even opened a fair bit for Tamil Nadu in the last two seasons.
Kohli might have seen how the Kolkata Knight Riders used Sunil Narine, the batsman, in the middle overs against the Super Kings, and sending Sundar in ahead of the likes of Gurkeerat Singh, Dube and even Chris Morris might have been aimed at achieving a similar end.
The Royal Challengers had lost de Villiers and were 67 for 3 in 10.5 overs when Sundar came in, with the potential upside of making Dhoni juggle his bowling plans or risk his spinners being hit by the left-hander. The Royal Challengers had the option of Dube too, of course, but his power-hitting might have been judged to be better used at the death.