Talking Points: Why did Delhi Capitals hold back Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada?

Also, Rohit's IPL playoff struggles continue, but Mumbai neutralise Axar's threat

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje compare notes  •  BCCI

Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje compare notes  •  BCCI

Talking Points from IPL 2020's first Qualifier, which pitted the Mumbai Indians against the Delhi Capitals in Dubai.
Why did the Delhi Capitals hold back Nortje and Rabada?
It is no secret that one of the Mumbai Indians' biggest strengths is their middle order and, as such, Shreyas Iyer and the Delhi Capitals decided to hold back their two main fast bowlers - Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada - in an attempt to stop them getting away, making plans for them to bowl six of the final 10 overs of the innings.
While that may have been a logical move, it perhaps underestimated the form of Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav. At the halfway mark, Mumbai were already flying at 93 for 2, and with the useful hitting of Nathan Coulter-Nile due in at No. 8, they could afford to attack the big two without fear.
Rabada and Nortje bowled the 11th and 12th overs respectively, conceding seven runs between them and accounting for Yadav. But they got their lengths wrong at the death and ended up leaking 92 runs between them in eight overs. When Mumbai's two main seamers, Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah, ripped through the Capitals' top order, it exposed the contrast between their attacking approach and the Capitals' defensiveness.
How did Mumbai neutralise Axar's threat?
Axar Patel's consistent lengths mean that he is very difficult to hit square of the wicket: throughout his career, most of the sixes he has been hit for have been down the ground in the "V", while the majority of fours have been in the fine-leg region. Mumbai seemed to know that, given how they attacked him tonight: they pushed the ball around through the covers and midwicket, while de Kock launched the third ball of his spell over long-on for six.
Meanwhile, Mumbai knew from their last fixture against the Capitals - when they left Axar out of the side entirely - that they would not want to bowl him with two left-hand batsmen at the crease. As a result, Krunal Pandya came in above brother Hardik when Kieron Pollard was dismissed, joining the set Ishan Kishan, which forced the Capitals to bring Rabada and Nortje back early rather than bowling Axar. When Mumbai managed to get through their overs without losing a wicket, they ensured that Axar would not bowl a fourth over, as the Capitals instead turned to Marcus Stoinis.
Should Stoinis have bowled a second over?
Daniel Sams kept his place despite going wicketless in his first two IPL appearances, perhaps because the Capitals did not want to change the balance of their side against after finally breaking their losing streak in their final group game against Royal Challengers Bangalore. His first over was expensive, leaking 15 runs, but after a decent recovery in the middle overs, he returned to bowl a final one at the death.
But perhaps Stoinis - whose only over, the 17th, cost five runs and included Krunal Pandya's wicket - should have been trusted to bowl the 19th or 20th instead. While few teams would have Stoinis down as a first-choice death bowler - he has leaked 11.08 runs per over at the death this IPL - his changes of pace appeared to be working. And while Sams picked up wickets for fun at the death in the 2019-20 BBL, he also conceded 9.78 runs per over, slightly above the overall rate in the competition.
Either way, it meant that Hardik - who had scored two runs off two balls at that point - was able to free his arms against the gentler pace of Sams, flicking a full toss over square leg for six and getting himself set before taking Nortje and Rabada down at the death. If Iyer had the chance to simulate the innings again, his choice of bowlers may well have been very different.
Rohit's playoff struggles
In 18 innings in the IPL playoffs, Rohit Sharma has managed only 229 runs at a disastrous average of 13.47. That run has contained eight single-digit scores, and more ducks (two, including tonight) than half-centuries. Tonight, he was trapped lbw first ball by R Ashwin - HawkEye showed that it was clipping the top of leg stump after being given out on the field, so even if he had reviewed the decision, it would not have changed a thing.
Curiously, his record in knockout games for India is significantly better, with 191 runs in seven innings including a crucial 56 in the Nidahas Trophy final two years ago - a match better remembered for Dinesh Karthik's match-winning finishing. In ODIs, he has two hundreds in knockout games, both also against Bangladesh in the 2015 World Cup and 2017 Champions Trophy. With so many failures in the IPL playoffs, though, it is hard to put his struggles down to coincidence: could it be a mental thing?
Boult's lightning start
Trent Boult's double-wicket maiden in the first over of the run chase effectively killed the game: according to ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster tool, their victory chances slipped from 18.96% to 8.04%, which dipped to 2.97% when Jasprit Bumrah struck with his second ball. Boult has been ruthless with the new ball this season, taking 14 powerplay wickets - four more than anyone else - and striking seven times in the first over of the innings, the most any bowler has managed in a single IPL season.
His method has been fairly simple: 70% of his balls have been either on a length or back of a length, with bouncers used as a surprise tool - roughly once every two overs - and one full ball every five. Perhaps most impressive has been his discipline. As a left-armer who swings the new ball, it would be easy to stray too straight and attack the stumps too often; instead, the majority of his balls have arrived outside off stump, and he has only strayed down leg 10 times in the powerplay all season.
Boult only bowled two overs before going off with a groin niggle, but his performance - and those of Hardik and Bumrah - vindicated the decision to rest them in Mumbai's final group game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. They will be desperate to have their best new-ball bowler back for the final.
Why did Bumrah bowl the second over?
After Boult's two early wickets, Mumbai decided to go for the kill. For the fourth time this season, Bumrah bowled as early as the second over, and this was the third time that he had done so immediately after Boult had made a breakthrough, with the opportunity to make more top-order breakthroughs and kill the game. Additionally, Bumrah explained in the presentation that Mumbai were worried about the prospect of dew later in the chase, and so Sharma used his strike bowler early on rather than risking making him less effective with a wet ball.
Having bowled two powerplay overs, Bumrah was held back slightly later than usual despite Boult's injury, but when he did return he ended any lingering Capitals hopes of a comeback: he took two in three balls as part of the innings' second double-wicket maiden, and claimed the Purple Cap from Rabada in the process.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98