Talking Points from the first game of Sunday's double-headers, between the Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Should the Royal Challengers quick bowlers have learnt from the Super Kings seamers?
In IPL 2020, quick bowlers have been mightily effective by cranking up speeds. On Sunday at the Dubai International Stadium though, the faster you bowled, the quicker you went for runs. The pitch was a slow one - Kings XI Punjab had defended 126 against Sunrisers Hyderabad less than 24 hours back - and bowling fast meant you just offered batsmen pace to work with.
The Chennai Super Kings bowlers realised that early. Using 130kph as a cut-off speed, the trio of Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran and Monu Kumar bowled 25 balls below that mark out of the 54 legal deliveries they sent down. That is almost one every other ball. Chahar even got AB de Villiers with a 120kph knuckle ball. Bowling cutters, slower balls, and at hard lengths meant the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen had to manufacture their own pace, which they couldn't really do.
Despite how the first innings went, the Royal Challengers' own trio of fast bowlers - Chris Morris, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini - hardly took the pace off. The combination of pace on the ball and the powerplay restrictions meant the Super Kings got off to a fast start. While Morris and Saini continued to bowl mostly full tilt, Siraj did try a few slower ones later on. That was in the innings' 12th over, and by then the Super Kings were already 91 for 1 and needed 55 off 54 balls.
Virat Kohli said as much after the game: "We just didn't bowl enough slower balls. No change of pace, no bouncers. We saw how difficult it was to get under those slower balls."
Why did both teams swap out an overseas pacer for an overseas spinner?
Both Isuru Udana and Josh Hazlewood had done well for the Royal Challengers and the Super Kings respectively, but both were benched with Moeen Ali and Mitchell Santner coming in. The changes were dictated by the pitch, with both Kohli and MS Dhoni realising that slow bowlers would get more purchase here.
It showed in both innings. The Super Kings spin trio of Santner, Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja gave up 73 runs in 11 overs - despite bowling all but four of those deliveries to Kohli and de Villiers. The Royal Challengers spin trio of Ali, Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar gave up 65 runs in 10 overs, despite the Super Kings going at a much more rapid rate overall than the Royal Challengers had.
The spin choke worked particularly well to Kohli and de Villiers. They put on an 82-run stand but off 68 balls, a partnership run rate of 7.23 which is the lowest ever for them when putting on a stand greater than 50 runs.
How long did Monu Kumar wait to make his IPL debut?
Monu Kumar was picked up by the Super Kings in the mega-auction in January 2018. He has been part of the side since then without ever getting a game, as the Super Kings won the title in 2018 and finished runners-up in 2019.
He began IPL 2020 in his now familiar role on the bench, but the worst season that the Super Kings have endured meant they were more open to changes in the playing XI, and Kumar finally got a go, having been on the bench for 44 matches: 16 in 2018, 17 in 2019 and 11 in 2020.
He ended up bowling only two overs and conceded 20 runs, including three wides and a no-ball. Off the free hit that came via the no-ball, Kumar nailed a leg-stump yorker to de Villiers to keep him to a single. Super Kings bowling coach Eric Simons said the yorker was a delivery Kumar had great confidence in.
"Monu's been working really hard in the nets. Little different to your average fast bowler. [He has] got a great wrist, and he can swing the ball in both directions," Simons told the host broadcaster Star Sports. "He's got some really good yorkers. Probably a bit more comfortable with his yorkers at the death."
Has Gaikwad found his most effective batting position?
Before IPL 2020, Ruturaj Gaikwad had batted as an opener in all but one of his 28 T20 matches. The one game he didn't open, he batted at No. 3.
Most IPL sides have more top-order options than lower down and the Super Kings are no different. The first two games Gaikwad got, he batted at No. 5 and 4. He looked uncertain during his brief stay in the middle. He got to open in the Super Kings' last match against the Mumbai Indians, but was the first wicket to fall in a stunning collapse.
The Super Kings kept faith in him, though, and he kept his opening spot for this game. He repaid that faith, having assessed how the pitch was when fielding. The Royal Challengers pacers offered width and space, and Gaikwad capitalised. He didn't try to muscle the ball, having realised that timing and placement would work much better on this surface. He was unbeaten on 65 off 51, but more than that, he would have walked back with confidence after having being called Suresh Raina's replacement in the XI.