Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Talking points from the IPL 2020 game between Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals in Abu Dhabi
Why were MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja slow during the middle overs?
The Super Kings weren't going too well when Jadeja joined Dhoni in the middle, having slid to 56 for 4 in ten overs. The pitch was slow, and offering some grip. The Royals then got both parts of a two-pronged strategy right: tactics and execution. As soon as the powerplay was done, they had brought on legspin from both ends in Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia, and both men had already got a wicket when Jadeja joined Dhoni in the middle.
The tactics involved continuing with legspin from both ends, even though Steven Smith had overs from Kartik Tyagi, Ankit Rajpoot (who ended up bowling just one over) and Ben Stokes to call on - that is without counting Jofra Archer, whom he must have wanted to save for the death overs anyway. But both Dhoni and Jadeja haven't been at their best against legspin this IPL, particularly googlies. Dhoni's strike rate against the legbreaks has been a reasonable 129.16, but against googlies, it's just 86.36. Jadeja's numbers are even worse - 63.15 against googlies and 110.00 against leg-breaks. So while it may have seemed counter-intuitive to continue with legspin from both ends when a left-hander was at the crease - one who has been in otherwise good striking form in Jadeja - the match-up was valid.
The execution involved slowing it up from the bowlers. With no pace to work with off the surface, bowling it slower would mean that much more effort on the part of the batsmen to manufacture pace. When you have to do that, there is always the chance that timing goes awry, which is what happened. Both Gopal and Tewatia rarely rose above the mid-80s kph, and there was only one genuinely quicker ball bowled in their combined eight overs, when Tewatia fizzed one through at 111.7 kph. Lack of pace and accuracy, coupled with their own struggles against the type of bowling combined to keep Dhoni and Jadeja quiet. They did add 51 runs, but took up 46 balls to do so.
How did Dhoni get run out?
This was only the ninth run out of Dhoni's IPL career, having batted 179 times. He's normally amongst the quickest between the wickets, which is why he isn't run out very often. In the 18th over, Dhoni had just hit his second boundary, getting it only because Archer at long-off let the ball slip through his fingers. The next ball was driven firmly to Archer again, but Dhoni seemed to think there was only a single in it and wasn't running hard for the first one. Archer mis-fielded again, and Jadeja, who was alive to the possibility of a second, urged Dhoni on, who then began sprinting back. But the delay from the first run being run meant Dhoni was an inch short when Archer recovered from the fumble and fired in a sharp throw to the keeper. Dhoni, normally a master at converting ones into twos, failed to do so this time. He was run out at 17.4 overs, and the Super Kings could get only 18 runs in the remaining 14 balls.
Is the Sam Curran experiment working out for the Super Kings?
The Super Kings took the decision to promote Curran up the order because he had been striking the ball well in the middle overs, and they needed impetus at the top. However, in three games so far, Curran hasn't managed to replicate his middle-order fireworks. What has worked against him is high pace with a new ball. He was out for 0 off 3 against Delhi Capitals, and made only 22 off 25 against the Royals, having faced eight of Archer's first 12 balls and scored only two off them, while also getting into all kinds of tangles. Not a single ball from Archer to Curran was pitched up. Curran had relative success as an opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but though he ended up with 31 off 21, his start there too was slow, being 10 off 15 at one point.
Not having Curran in the middle order has also contributed to the Super Kings being slow through that phase. Against the Royals, they couldn't hit a single boundary off either Tewatia or Gopal, who combined to bowl eight overs for 32 runs, also picking a wicket each.
Why did Dhoni bowl out Deepak Chahar and Josh Hazlewood at the start of the chase?
Despite having seen the Royals legspinners do well, Dhoni opted to go with his faster men at the top of the Royals' chase. Chahar and Hazlewood bowled their full quota inside nine overs, only broken up by one over from Jadeja. The reasons were two-fold.
As Dhoni explained after the game, the reason he brought Jadeja on in the seventh over was to see if the pitch was holding up, and he found that it wasn't. The grip that the Royals slow bowlers had got, was noticeably less on offer in the second innings, with dew playing a part. That meant Dhoni's spinners wouldn't have the advantages that the first innings offered. Secondly, given that the Super Kings had put up only 125 for 5, the only way to win the match was to bowl the Royals out. Dhoni decided to go with his best wicket-taking options while the game was still alive. Both Chahar and Hazlewood did a good job, picking up three wickets inside the powerplay, but in the end, there wasn't enough to defend.
What is up with the Royals' powerplay troubles?
Speaking of wickets, the Royals have been losing more than any other team in the powerplay this IPL. They have now lost 20 wickets in the powerplay in the ten games they have played. The lack of a good start has contributed to their troubles with the batting. On Monday, their powerplay score was 31 for 3, but they could weather that because the target being chased was such a small one.
The trouble at the top has perhaps contributed to the Royals keeping Jos Buttler at No.5. When they lost three quick wickets, they still had the experienced pair of Buttler and Smith in the middle, who eventually put on a match-winning 98-run partnership, with Buttler hitting 70* off 48.
Why did Kedar Jadhav bat so low
A couple of weeks ago, Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming reacted angrily when he was asked why Jadhav had batted above Dhoni, coming in at No.4. Fleming said then that Jadhav was the Super Kings' designated No.4 and was merely batting in position.
On Monday, Jadhav came out at No. 7 in the 18th over. His own poor form has probably contributed to the changing position, having even sat out of the XI a couple of times. Perhaps the Super Kings wanted to send a left-hander in at the fall of the fourth wicket since two legspinners were bowling, so Jadeja went in ahead of Jadhav. Then too, overall Jadeja has had a much better tournament with the bat than Jadhav, so recent form could have played a part.