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England players at the IPL, week four: Eoin Morgan takes charge, Sam Curran provides spark

All the action and talking points around England's IPL contingent after week four

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Week four of the IPL, and the pressure for play-off places is beginning to get critical for some of the teams with notable England representation. Here's how they've got on this week. Click here for week three's update.
Morgan's KKR captaincy gets off to a mixed start
A mid-tournament promotion for England's World Cup-winning captain, with Dinesh Karthik choosing to focus on his batting and leave KKR's tactics in the hands of his more-than-qualified deputy. There wasn't an awful lot that Eoin Morgan could do to affect his first match at the helm, an eight-wicket crushing by Mumbai Indians, albeit his handy 39 not out from 29 balls picked the side up after the loss of five early wickets. But second-time out, he was on familiar ground - another Super Over to marshall, and he called his shots well, trusting Lockie Ferguson to deliver with W, 2, W in his first outing of the tournament, before taking first strike in an uneventful reply. Earlier in the same game, Morgan had fallen to the last ball of KKR's innings for another fluent innings 34 from 23 balls.
Archer gets AB-ed as Rajasthan's slip off the pace
Jofra Archer remains near the top of this year's pile by any analysis you'd care to choose - impact stats, Fantasy points, wickets, dot balls, fastest balls … you name it. But Rajasthan Royals are all of a sudden propping up the table after blowing two red-hot victory chances in a week. Archer was blameless in the first instance - he castled Prithvi Shaw with a snorting first delivery of the match against Delhi Capitals, and was not remotely flattered by final figures of 3 for 19, even though Anrich Nortje's furious riposte - more of which later - carried the day as Rajasthan's lower-order issues continued. And then, against Bangalore Royal Challengers, AB de Villiers turned up in one of those moods, and Archer had no answer as he was smoked over midwicket for the matchwinning six. Debate will rage, however, as to whether he ought to have bowled the crucial 19th over, with RCB at that stage still needing 35 to win. Unfortunately, three de Villiers sixes off Jaydev Unadkat left no wriggle room, even for a bowler of Archer's skill.
Bairstow at a loss to prevent Sunrisers' slump
Change at the top for Sunrisers this week, with Jonny Bairstow opening alongside Kane Williamson against KKR, instead of his familiar partner, David Warner. But the switch, prompted by an injury niggle for Williamson, did not arrest the team's slide down the IPL table, as two further losses - the latter after a Super Over - left them drifting off the pace. In both cases, Bairstow's contribution was potent without being decisive. He dropped anchor for 23 from 24 against Chennai Super Kings before being outfoxed by Ravindra Jadeja, then fell at an inopportune moment of the chase against KKR, holing out to long-on for 36 from 28 moments after the loss of Priyam Garg. As for that Super Over, well … Bairstow was at least reunited with Warner, but found himself stranded at the non-striker's end as two wickets fell in three balls.
Sam Curran, pinch-hitter, death bowler
Another all-action week in the life of England's youngest gun. Not content with getting stuck into every crumb of action thrown his way, Sam Curran even earned a promotion to the top of Chennai Super Kings' batting card - supplanting the mighty Shane Watson no less - on the back of his unbridled belligerence in the lower half of the innings. He duly came up trumps with a power-packed 31 from 21 against Sunrisers, albeit he took a little while to get truly warmed-up. And if he was less effective in his second outing against Delhi, then at least he didn't waste his time in failing - a third-ball duck allowed Watson and Faf du Plessis to pick up where they left off. Undeterred, Curran steeled himself to make amends with the ball, and so nearly swiped an unlikely win with an outstanding 19th over of Delhi's chase. Only 21 runs to play with, and Shikhar Dhawan on 98 from 53, Curran scuppered Alex Carey first-ball, almost induced a play-on second, extracted an lbw from his fifth ball that was subsequently over-turned, and conceded just four runs in total - only for Axar Patel to ruin his good work with three match-sealing sixes in Jadeja's final over.
More near-misses for Buttler as pressure begins to build
So many winning positions, so few results to show for them. The finger is being firmly pointed at Rajasthan's batting after a haul of three wins in nine, and against RCB, Jos Buttler's shift from opener to No. 5 was the first suggestion that he is maybe one of the key guilty parties. He has failed to kick on in all but one of his eight appearances to date, and this week's offerings followed a familiar theme. Oodles of power and fluency, and moments of rare, unteachable class. But his final scores of 22 from 9 and 24 from 25 were further tales of what-might-have-been. In mitigation, Buttler's short-lived duel with Delhi's Nortje was one of the most compelling sights of the week - a dreamy first-ball drive over long-on for six, followed by a brace of ramps for four, the second to a ball that was clocked at a comet-like 156kph. And then, the coup de grace - fast, full stump-splatterer, as Nortje bent his back once more, at 155kph this time, to unseat his foe and prompt Rajasthan's umpteenth reshuffle of the tournament.
Stokes settles into opener's role, but falls short of glory
It's a promotion that England will be watching with great interest, for Ben Stokes as a T20 opener makes an awful lot of sense (in spite of a glut of options), when you consider how watertight his technique is against the highest-calibre of new-ball bowling, and how explosive he can be when he has time to build into his innings. But the early verdict from Stokes' first three shots at the role is "work in progress". He's not yet found a settled partner for starters, and in each of his innings this week he was outpaced by his sidekick - Buttler in a short-lived first instance, and Robin Uthappa in a buccaneering 41 from 22 against RCB. But the experiment is worth persevering with - Stokes' best effort so far, 41 from 35 against Delhi, had the match at his mercy until he took one chance too many against Tushar Deshpande and holed out to long-on. With the ball, he continues to be a shock option in the mould of an Andre Russell - although perhaps even less frequent. He's sent down three overs in as many matches so far.
Jordan finds his range as Kings XI turn the corner
Slowly but surely, Chris Jordan is making his mark on this tournament. Back-to-back victories have hauled Kings XI off the foot of the table and given them the momentum to close the gap to the play-off places, and in contrasting manners, Jordan has been integral to the revival. Against RCB he finally got in among the wickets for the first time this season, but more importantly conceded just 20 runs from his three overs, all delivered at the back-end of the innings, to stifle any thoughts of a 200-plus target. And then, against Sunrisers, he came good in the ultimate death scenario - a second Super Over after Mohammad Shami had defended five runs against Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma. Jordan's effort wasn't quite that economical, but it proved good enough - his diet of wide yorkers and low full tosses leaving Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal just 11 runs to pick off. His one bum note this week was his failure, for the second time in three visits to the crease, to be Kings' last-ball hero in normal time. After being bowled with the scores level against Delhi in week one, he was this time run out coming back for the match-winning second.
Moeen, Banton, Tom Curran continue to warm the bench
Moeen Ali hasn't featured since his solitary outing against Delhi a fortnight ago, while Tom Curran continues to wait for a recall as Rajasthan's big four overseas stars are, understandably enough, given the lion's share of opportunities. Tom Banton, meanwhile, earned his maiden IPL cap against RCB last week, but wasn't able to seize the chance, making just 8 from 12 balls in an 82-run thrashing.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket