Talking Points: Should Rashid Khan have bowled in the powerplay?
Also, why did Capitals go against the trend and choose to bat first? And should Williamson have attacked more?
Talking Points from IPL 2020's second Qualifier, between the Delhi Capitals and the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Why did Capitals choose to bat first?
Shreyas Iyer, the Delhi Capitals' captain, went against the trend in the tournament by opting to bat when he won the toss. As the tournament has worn on, chasing teams have been increasingly successful, and especially in Abu Dhabi, where the stadium's open sides have created perfect conditions for dew later in the evenings. Coming into this game, 10 of the last 11 chasing teams had won (excluding Super Overs).
Iyer explained that his decision had been informed by a good batting pitch, the fact that the Capitals had lost their last two games against the Sunrisers while chasing, and the Sunrisers' unconvincing performance batting second against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator.
"We had two outings against the Sunrisers and we bowled [first] against them," Iyer said. "I feel that it's a better option to bat against them, and we saw in the previous game as well that they were a little vulnerable chasing. The wicket also looks really good to bat on, so putting a good total on the board would be a great responsibility for us as batsmen."
Should Rashid have bowled in the powerplay?
With Marcus Stoinis promoted to open the batting alongside Shikhar Dhawan - as mooted by ESPNcricinfo's tactics board in the build-up - the Sunrisers struggled early on. After getting a life thanks to Jason Holder's drop at silly mid-on, Stoinis put his foot down and had raced to 33 off 21 balls by the end of the powerplay.
When he fell to the fourth ball he faced from Rashid Khan, in the ninth over, it invited the question as to whether David Warner should have thrown the ball to his best bowler inside the powerplay. In fact, Rashid has not bowled a single over inside the first six this season, despite having done so plenty of times in other leagues around the world.
The case was made stronger by Stoinis' poor historical record against top-quality legspinners, including a head-to-head record against Rashid that read: 18 balls, 21 runs, two dismissals. And on top of that, Rashid's record against the Capitals is superb: across his five previous games against them, Rashid had taken 10 wickets for 72 runs in 20 overs. When Stoinis lost his off stump in the ninth over, it felt like Warner had missed a trick by holding his star man back.
Why did Iyer come in at No. 3?
With 86 on the board after 8.2 overs and the prospect of Khan and Shahbaz Nadeem bowling the bulk of the middle overs, it might have made sense for Delhi to send in Shimron Hetmyer at No. 3. After all, he is a destructive player of left-arm spin - with a strike rate of 162.38 against it in his T20 career - and took Khan down playing for RCB last season. What's more, No. 3 has been his favoured role in T20s, both for West Indies and Guyana Amazon Warriors.
Instead, the Capitals decided to send in their captain, Iyer, to maintain their left-right combination alongside Dhawan. Iyer is a slow starter in T20s, scoring at a strike rate of 95.5 in his first 10 balls - by means of comparison, Suryakumar Yadav's equivalent figure is 139.8 - and he showed only limited intent in making 21 off 20 balls with a single boundary. Given Nadeem's struggles against left-handers - his 16 balls against them went for 38 runs off the bat - it might have been a better decision to push Hetmyer up ahead of Iyer.
Why was Ashwin held back?
In the chase, Iyer's use of his offspinner R Ashwin was unusual. Ashwin bowled the first over, seemingly to target the left-handed Warner, but was instantly taken out of the attack after conceding 12 runs, including a huge six from Priyam Garg - promoted to open after Shreevats Goswami's three-ball duck in the Eliminator.
With three spinners in their line-up, and Stoinis as the third seamer, the Capitals could afford to hold Ashwin back through the middle overs, deciding instead to split spin-bowling duties in the period between legspinner Privam Dubey and slow left-armer Axar Patel, both of whom turned the ball away from Sunrisers' right-handers.
With Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje both coming back for a third over relatively early in the piece to try and break the partnership between Holder and Kane Williamson, Ashwin had to bowl two more overs at the death - the 16th and the 18th. He bowled defensively, bowling back-of-a-length and forcing the batsmen to take on the boundary-riders, and while his figures - 0 for 33 in three overs - looked relatively ugly, he managed to fill the gaps around Iyer's attacking moves.
Should Williamson have attacked more?
If I asked you to think of an archetypal Williamson innings in T20 cricket, you'd probably picture him deftly finding gaps, facing hardly any dot balls, and managing to turn singles into twos by scampering between the wickets. But tonight was very different. Instead, he scored 44 of his 67 runs in boundaries, faced 13 dots in his 45-ball stay, and failed to hit a single two or three.
According to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, Williamson only attempted nine boundaries in all, and managed 23 off the 36 balls that he faced which did not go for four. Perhaps it is unnecessarily harsh to criticise Williamson for his innings - after all, he kept Sunrisers alive from 44 for 3 after five overs. But on an excellent batting pitch, and given how well he seemed to time every attacking shot, it felt like he could have gone harder against the Capitals' weaker bowlers in particular.
Did the umpires miss a no-ball?
With 29 runs required off the last 11 balls, Kagiso Rabada let a high full toss slip out which Abdul Samad smashed for six over deep-square leg. Warner, on the sidelines, held out one arm as though signalling a no-ball, and yelled onto the field to ask why it had not been called for height. The next ball - which would have been a free hit, if it had been given, Samad was caught at long-off by Keemo Paul, on as a substitute fielder.
Replays would later reveal that it had reached Samad ever so slightly below his waist. Therefore, despite Warner's protestations, the decision reached was the correct one.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98