Talking points from IPL 2020 game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Delhi Capitals
Why did Sunrisers Hyderabad drop Jonny Bairstow?
Jonny Bairstow has been a revelation for Sunrisers in the IPL: he scored 445 runs in 10 innings while striking at 157.24 in his debut season in 2019, and while this year had been slightly less productive (345 runs in 11 matches, 126.83 strike rate) he was still their second-highest run-scorer coming into this game. But with Rashid Khan an automatic pick, and the management keen to pick a fifth frontline bowler in Jason Holder, "one of the top three batters had to miss out," explained head coach Trevor Bayliss. "Jonny was the odd one out on this occasion."
The logic was that leaving Bairstow out allowed Wriddhiman Saha to bat at the top of the order. The move worked on this occasion, with Saha's blistering start setting the platform for a convincing win. Kane Williamson, included at Bairstow's expense to bolster the middle order, made only 11 not out off 10 balls, on his return from injury, but it hardly mattered with 170 on the board when he walked in during the 15th over.
Should Ajinkya Rahane have opened for Delhi Capitals?
In a chase of 220, it seemed an odd choice for the Capitals to send Ajinkya Rahane - a man with an IPL career strike rate below 120 - out to open the batting alongside Shikhar Dhawan. Perhaps their logic was that he would be most useful in the powerplay, with the opportunity to loft the ball over the infield, but their batting order looked particularly strange: Shreyas Iyer, a significantly faster-scoring player than Rahane, and no doubt a more complete T20 batsman, ended up walking out at 55 for 4 with the required run rate comfortably above 12.
Either way, there could be little doubt that Sunrisers were significantly happier to see Rahane walk out to the middle than they would have been if Prithvi Shaw had been selected in his place. Despite his poor run of form in the second half of the season, Shaw's ceiling as a T20 opener is much higher, and he could well be picked for their next fixture against Mumbai Indians.
Does Marcus Stoinis have a problem against spin?
The short answer to this question appears to be yes: he has scored at a strike rate of 129.16 against spinners this season, compared to 173.49 against seamers, and struggles against spin have dogged him throughout his IPL career. Stoinis has been watchful this year, generally opting to rotate the strike against spin early in his innings and doing so relatively successfully, but when he came in at No. 3, he had no choice but to attack in the powerplay.
David Warner saw an opportunity to bowl left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem to two right-handers, and the move paid off: Stoinis looked to give himself room, Nadeem followed him, and he slapped a length ball straight to Warner at mid-off. In all T20s since the start of 2018, Stoinis has scored at a strike rate of just 92.94 against left-arm orthodox spin.
Did the Capitals underestimate Saha?
While few would have expected Saha to be quite so explosive on his return to the side, he has regularly been a fast-scoring opener; coming into this season, he had the fifth-best powerplay strike rate in the history of the IPL.
Out of the 45 balls he faced, 24 arrived either in line with the stumps or down the leg side, allowing him to score heavily on the leg side. In all, 52 of his 87 runs came between fine leg and midwicket, and it seemed that Capitals didn't have a specific plan against him.
What is Rabada doing wrong in the powerplay?
Despite holding the Purple Cap, Kagiso Rabada has failed to take a single wicket in the powerplay this season. That is not because he has not bowled with the new ball - in fact, he has now bowled 16 wicketless powerplay overs in 2020, overtaking Jasprit Bumrah for the most in a single IPL season. He also ended a 25-match streak that saw him take a wicket every time he bowled, dating back to 2017.
Digging deeper into his record suggests that is largely due to the fact batsmen have attacked him only rarely. According to ESPNcricinfo's shot-type data, 17.7% of the balls he has bowled in the powerplay have been attacked, compared to the overall figure of 20.0% across all bowlers.
His economy rate is the first six overs has been only 7.62, despite conceding 37 in his only two overs tonight. He has largely bowled on a length, with 63.5% of his balls on a length or back-of-a-length, and has only landed two yorkers in the powerplay. Either way, it provides a further illustration of the fact that wickets alone do not always tell the full story.
How has Rashid turned it round against Pant?
Coming into this season, Rashid Khan's head-to-head match-up with Rishabh Pant was not good, from his perspective: he had bowled 37 balls to him while conceding 54 runs, and dismissed him only once. But in 2020, he has completely turned it around, bowling 20 balls to him, getting him out once, and conceding only seven runs.
While that record has been emblematic of Pant's wider struggles across this season, it also illustrates Rashid's ability to work players out and adapt as a bowler. He has generally bowled fast, flat length balls to Pant this season - 15 of the 20 balls he has bowled to him have been a good length, according to ESPNcricinfo's data - and has used his googly regularly to keep him guessing.
Today, he conceded four runs from 11 balls against Pant, despite coming on when the required rate was 11.85. Rashid's spell was the most economical four-over return this IPL season, and he has two other entries among the six cheapest four-over spells of the tournament.