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Talking points - How badly did Kolkata Knight Riders miss Russell and Narine?

And why did Gurkeerat Singh Mann bat ahead of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers?

Saurabh Somani
Talking Points from RCB's demolition of KKR in Abu Dhabi.
How badly did Kolkata Knight Riders miss Andre Russell and Sunil Narine?
Russell had pulled up injured in the Knight Riders' last game, a Super Over victory against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, and was a doubtful starter. Narine hasn't featured in the playing XI since his action was reported. The spinner might have played today but Morgan indicated at the toss that he was nursing a bit of a niggle.
Missing two players of the quality of Russell and Narine left a big gap to fill for the Knight Riders. The Knight Riders have won more than they have lost when both have played, and lost more than they've won when neither has (see chart below). The disparity illustrates just how much the West Indian duo have influenced the Knight Riders' fortunes.
The last time that neither of them featured in an XI for the Knight Riders was back in IPL 2012, Narine's first season with the team. Since April 10, 2012, the Knight Riders had played 141 consecutive matches that had at least one of them in the XI.
Why did Mohammed Siraj take the new ball instead of Washington Sundar?
It was based on the conditions on offer. Siraj hasn't taken the new ball for the Royal Challengers in any of his three previous matches in IPL 2020, but after the first over that Chris Morris bowled, captain Virat Kohli took the call to hand the ball to Siraj instead of Sundar, who was originally supposed to bowl.
"I was thinking Washy for the new ball," Kohli told host broadcaster Star after the game. "The plan was to bowl Washy and Morry, but then we thought let's go Morris and Siraj."
Team director Michael Hesson explained in detail during the Knight Riders innings. "We wanted to see how the first over went for us," he said. "Once the ball swung we knew that Siraj was a good option. It was something we were going to do on the fly. We know he's got great seam position and if he hits those good lengths, he's always in the game."
Siraj was included in this game at the expense of spinner Shahbaz Ahmed - who had a good debut in the Royal Challengers' previous match, against the Rajasthan Royals - keeping the conditions and the opposition in mind. "We also felt that the two left-handers in [Eoin] Morgan and [Nitish] Rana took Shahbaz Ahmed out of the equation, and we felt that a swing bowler would be more useful on this surface," Hesson said.
Hesson said the team was hopeful Siraj could get "one or two" wickets in the powerplay - he ended up bowling two maidens and getting three. His eventual figures of 4-2-8-3 were the most economical in IPL 2020 so far, and he also became the first bowler to bowl two maidens in one IPL game.
Why didn't Lockie Ferguson bowl in the powerplay?>
He had bowled 27 balls in the Knight Riders' Super Over win against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Seven of those balls were over 150 kph. Five of them resulted in wickets. And yet, Ferguson didn't bowl a single over in the powerplay while defending 84. This when wickets were the only thing the Knight Riders needed, having put up the lowest total in IPL history where a team didn't get bowled out. The lowest total successfully defended is 116, back in 2009 when Chennai Super Kings held off Kings XI Punjab in Durban.
But, Eoin Morgan opted to go with a more traditional approach, which might have been the go-to method to defend 150-plus, but not one suited to trying to defend 84. Pat Cummins bowled three overs in the powerplay, and Prasidh Krishna shared the new ball. Varun Chakravarthy was brought on for the last over of the powerplay. When Ferguson got the ball, immediately after the powerplay, he had Aaron Finch caught behind off his second legal delivery. Was Morgan worried about the risk of Ferguson going for a lot of runs? If so, it was a strange call, because bowling economy was not going to win the Knight Riders this match. This was the Knight Riders' seventh game in Abu Dhabi, so they are more familiar with the conditions than most, and might have thought Ferguson's extra pace would work better after the field was spread.
Eventually, Ferguson ended up being not only the sole wicket-taker for the Knight Riders but also the most economical bowler, giving up only 17 runs in four overs.
Why did Gurkeerat Singh Mann bat at No.3 for the Royal Challengers?
The Royal Challengers had two options in their chase: go hard at the total by sending their best batsmen up top - maybe even AB de Villiers to open - and boost their net run-rate considerably. Or to play safe cricket and not risk an unlikely collapse, collect the two points and get a fairly significant net run-rate boost anyway because the target was so small. They opted for the latter, reasoning that as the tournament got closer to its business end, it would pay greater dividends to have all their batsmen with some time in the middle behind them.
Mann had batted for the first time in this tournament only in the last game against the Royals, the least among the batsmen in the XI or those on the fringe like Shivam Dube. Consequently, he was promoted.
"That was the basic idea because I hadn't got to bat much in the tournament," Mann said after the match. "Before leading into the latter half of the tournament, I could play a lot of balls before the next games."

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo