Talking Points from the match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders in Sharjah.
Why did Russell bowl in the powerplay?
Andre Russell has been the Kolkata Knight Riders' designated death bowler this IPL, but with them leaving out Sunil Narine, who has been put on the warning list because of an alleged suspect action, they needed Russell to front up in the powerplay, middle overs, and death as well. Also, with the Knight Riders picking batsman Tom Banton over offspin-bowling allrounder Chris Green and fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, they had only five genuine bowling options and part-timer Nitish Rana, who didn't bowl at all.
Russell, who had injured his knee in the CPL and possibly aggravated it while tumbling near the boundary against the Kings XI Punjab on Saturday, ran up gingerly on Monday and aborted. However, he then ran in harder and rushed Aaron Finch with a short ball on his fifth delivery. The next ball was also similarly short and Russell drew a spliced pull, but Kamlesh Nagarkoti dropped a regulation catch at short fine leg to give Finch a life on 19. Finch added 28 to his tally before he was bowled by Prasidh Krishna.
Should the Knight Riders have opened with Tripathi?
In the Knight Riders' match against Delhi Capitals at Sharjah, Rahul Tripathi showed his attacking enterprise with 36 off 16 from No. 8, and in the next game he returned to the top, a position where he thrived with Rising Pune Supergiant. He maximised the powerplay against the Super Kings, his 81 off 51 balls setting up a ten-run victory. However, after managing only 4 off 10 balls in his next innings at the top against the Rajasthan Royals, Tripathi was shuffled to the lower-middle order again, this time to accommodate IPL debutant Banton at the top.
Banton didn't show enough attacking intent. He faced five dots out of 12 balls he faced and was castled for 8. Shubman Gill, the other opener, was brisk but not brisk enough in a tall chase of 195. Tripathi batted at No. 7 and by the time he came in, the game was up for the Knight Riders.
In hindsight, the Knight Riders could have given Tripathi another shot at opening the batting and taking on the short boundaries despite Banton having opened in 36 of his 40 T20 innings. That would have also allowed Banton to ease into the IPL by sandwiching between Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell in the middle order.
Why did Sundar bowl just one over in the powerplay
Washington Sundar had taken down both Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis on Saturday, and with the Sharjah pitch also getting slower, quite a few may have expected him to bowl earlier than the sixth over. Probably, Virat Kohli held him back to match him up with left-handers Rana and Eoin Morgan. After inside-edging a slog sweep onto his pad, Rana aimed another slog sweep off Sundar in the next over, but the spinner went much fuller and quickened his pace to knock over his middle stump.
Sundar then kept Morgan to 5 off 4 balls before he found extra bounce and drew a top edge to short third man. The Knight Riders were reduced to 64 for 5 and there was no way back for them.
How did the spinners do so well in Sharjah?
Varun Chakaravarthy, Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal had combined figures of 12-0-57-3. The success of the spinners was partly down to the tiring pitches and the absence of grass. Even the likes of Russell, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, and Krishna found grip when they took pace off and bowled cutters into the pitch. This wasn't quite the Sharjah pitch where teams had rattled off 200-plus totals for fun at the start of the season.
Kohli had opted to bat, reasoning that this pitch will become more slower in the second half. It sure did, with Sundar and Chahal finding more turn and some uneven bounce. The Knight Riders' rapidly rising asking rate also worked in the favour of both Sundar and Chahal. Isuru Udana's slower offcuters, too, were difficult to put away.