The powerplay is understandably a key phase in a T20 game: a good start sets the batting team up for a huge total, while wickets give the early advantage for the bowling team. In IPL 2020, one bowler has stood out in this phase more than any other - Jofra Archer - for routinely swinging the moment in favour of his team, the Rajasthan Royals.
While the economy rate for all bowlers in this phase has been 7.65, with a strike rate of 26 balls per wicket, Archer has achieved an astonishing economy rate of 4.34, and he has taken a wicket every 15.6 balls. Archer's economy rate of 4.34 is the best across all IPL seasons for anyone who has bowled at least 15 overs. In 2019, too, he conceded just 4.75 runs per over. However, the difference this season has been that Archer also picked up ten wickets in the first six overs, compared to the three he bagged in 2019. Five of his wickets came in the first over and helped the Royals gain the early advantage, which they often didn't build on.
Archer's powerplay economy rate is not only an IPL record, but is also the third-best across all major leagues in the world with the same 15-over cut-off. Only Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the 2019-20 Bangladesh Premier League and Ben Dwarshuis in the 2017-18 Big Bash League have better economy rates in a season.
In terms of overall wickets in the tournament this season, Archer is third, behind Kagiso Rabada (25) and Jasprit Bumrah (23), at the time of filing this. However, numbers don't always paint the full picture. While Rabada owns the Purple Cap, he has just one wicket from 19 overs in the powerplay, compared to Archer's ten. While Rabada rules the death overs, Archer get wickets across all phases.
According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, Archer's 20 wickets are worth 25 Smart Wickets, while Rabada's 25 wickets are worth only 22. One of the main reasons for this is that Archer has consistently dismissed some of the biggest names - David Warner, Quinton de Kock, Jonny Bairstow and Shikhar Dhawan, for example - early. Wickets late in the innings are important, especially in close contests, but many death-over wickets are those of lower-order batsmen in one-sided games, which don't convert into a significant value in terms of Smart Wickets. Archer's ten powerplay wickets puts him only behind Trent Boult, who has taken 12 wickets.
However, Archer got much less - almost zero - support from his Royals bowling colleagues this season. The others who bowled with Archer conceded 9.93 runs per over and took just six wickets. As a result, the Royals had the worst economy rate among all teams in the powerplay. Royals' weak support cast meant captain Steven Smith could never use Archer for three overs in the first six.
Archer's powerplay record was built on bowling excellent lines and lengths, that mirrored typical Test-match bowling. Archer's wickets majorly came from back-of-a-length and short deliveries, which made up 60% of the balls he bowled. He took four wickets at an economy of 4.69 bowling good-length deliveries and five wickets from back-of-a-length and short deliveries. Among all bowlers, Archer's economy while bowling these deliveries was just 3.54 - by far the best. Only Mohammed Shami has bowled more balls in these lengths, but he has conceded 7.15 runs per over. Rabada, meanwhile, took no wickets bowling these lengths and went at 7.71 runs per over. Thirteen of Archer's deliveries were bowled full and the batsmen took advantage of those, scoring 22 runs.
The batsmen were in control only 65% of the time when they faced Archer in the powerplay and were defensive in their intent in 53 out of 156 deliveries.
If only Archer had more support from the rest of his bowling unit, the Royals would have probably been strong contenders for the playoffs.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo