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Match Analysis

Clash of T20 ideologies gets its grandstand finish

New-age T20 was beating traditional T20 hands down. Until Rahul Tewatia came in and tore the script

A curious thing happened off the last ball of Punjab Kings' innings on Friday. Arshdeep Singh and Rahul Chahar ran two, and then attempted a third run that was absolutely not on. But it was the last ball, so why not look for that extra run even if there's a 90% chance of a run-out? Simple, but not too many batters and teams actually attempt this. Almost as a reward for their opportunism, Hardik Pandya messed up the run-out at the bowler's end, treading onto the stumps before he could break the wicket legally.
That moment was symbolic of Kings' approach with the bat throughout this season. If the effort to maximise run-scoring brings a greater risk of losing wickets, so be it.
You can quibble with the finer details sometimes. On Friday, they went into the 16th over with their last two recognised batters at the crease, and with one of them, Liam Livingstone, batting on 64 off 26 balls. Rashid Khan was to bowl the 16th over, and most teams would have played his last over out carefully in that situation. Not Kings, and their risk-taking didn't come off.
You could argue that this was not the situation for Livingstone and Shahrukh Khan, both of whom have distinctly better records against pace than spin, to be going after the world's best white-ball spinner, especially when there were four overs of pace to come. At a granular level, in that over and against that bowler, the merit of this approach was debatable.
Zoom out, though, and the same approach brought Kings 112 runs in overs seven to 16 - the third-best middle-overs total of IPL 2022. Kings have two of the six best middle-overs totals of the season so far, the other being 99 during their successful chase of 206 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
In both innings, they lost five wickets in this phase. In both innings, they kept going hard.
Teams have traditionally failed to - or opted not to - maximise the middle overs even though this phase makes up half of a T20 innings. There have always been teams that have swum against this tide, and Kings have been that team in this season of the IPL.
And they're not doing it because they want to revolutionise T20. They're doing it to try and win as many games as possible with the squad they have. Like most other sporting philosophies, theirs occupies some part of the vast middle ground between idealism and pragmatism. Kings bat the way they do not just because they want to, but also, perhaps, because they have to.
With the total available talent in the IPL being divided by ten this season rather than eight, nearly every team has had to make some sort of compromise while building their squad. Kings have assembled a line-up of frightening hitting talent, but their bowling attack is among the less likely ones in the league to defend a par total.
Kings, therefore, usually shoot for well above par. They were getting there easily for three-fourths of their innings on Friday, then they looked like they'd fall well below it, and then their last-wicket pair improbably took them to 189.
It seemed a formidable total through most of the second innings despite Kings only taking their second wicket in the 15th over. Despite Shubman Gill timing the ball like a 14-year-old prodigy batting against his 10-year-old cousins, ESPNcricinfo's forecaster pegged Gujarat Titans' likelihood of victory at below 50% for most of their chase.
And as the chase neared its climax, the dangers of the traditional T20 approach became apparent. Titans only scored 87 through the middle overs despite losing just one wicket in that phase. Gill, having reached 78 off 43 balls, scored only 18 runs and hit no boundaries off his last 16 balls. He faced some good defensive bowling in this time, particularly from Arshdeep, but the accumulated fatigue from running 10 twos in the heat and humidity of Mumbai in April may also have contributed to his slowdown.
If you belong in the camp that believes the ideal T20 innings is made up of short bursts of hitting from multiple batters rather than being built around one big score, you might have smiled to yourself.
The target kept pulling away from Titans' reach: 37 from 18, 32 from 12, 19 from six. A panicky last-over run-out, and it came down to 18 from five.
New-age T20 was beating traditional T20 hands down. Or, more accurately, the team that prioritised hitting over bowling at an auction where demand exceeded supply was beating the team that went the other way.
You know what happened next. Fate, and Rahul Tewatia, tore up the script, and this match, billed as a clash of contrasts, got its grandstand finish. One team won and the other lost, but the ideological clash isn't ending anytime soon.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo