Here are the main Talking Points from the third match of IPL 2021, in which Kolkata Knight Riders held off Sunrisers Hyderabad's challenge to win by 10 runs.
Why was Rashid held back for Russell??
Before Sunday's game, Rashid Khan had dismissed Andre Russell three times in T20 cricket off 28 balls while conceding 48 runs. After bowling the seventh, ninth, and the 13th overs, Rashid was back into the attack for the 17th soon after Rahul Tripathi skied T Natarajan behind to Wriddhiman Saha.
The head-to-head battle lasted merely two (legitimate) balls on Sunday. After Rashid fired a wrong'un down the leg side for five wides, he pinged Russell's pad with another wrong'un. The next ball was a quicker slider, but Russell couldn't clear long-on. It was the fourth time that Rashid got Russell in T20 cricket. Only Dwayne Bravo has dismissed Russell more times in T20 cricket, with six dismissals in 133 balls. Rashid has got Russel four times now, in 30 balls.
Did Sunrisers miss a trick by sending Shankar ahead of Samad?
Vijay Shankar scores a boundary every 7.4 balls while Abdul Samad hits one every 4.3 balls (in a shorter T20 career). Samad had showcased his ball-striking ability last IPL on the larger grounds in the UAE, even taking on the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Anrich Nortje for sixes.
When Mohammad Nabi holed out, the Sunrisers were 131 for 4, needing 57 from 24 balls. Instead of pushing Samad - or even Rashid - up the order, the Sunrisers sent in Shankar, who managed only 11 off seven balls before chipping Russell to cover. Samad then came in and walloped two sixes off his first three balls, but despite his late cameo and Manish Pandey's unbeaten 61 off 44 balls, the Sunrisers fell short in the end.
Why did Sunrisers pick Nabi?
In IPL 2020, Nabi had got just one game in Abu Dhabi, where he came up against three left-handers in Kolkata Knight Riders' top five. On Sunday, Nabi was thrown into the Sunrisers' mix to counter a left-hander heavy Knight Riders batting line-up once again. West Indies allrounder Jason Holder could have given the Sunrisers another option had he been available for selection, but he was still stuck in quarantine.
Nabi gave up just five runs in the only over he bowled in the powerplay, where the Sunrisers leaked 50 runs overall without taking a wicket. Although the right-handed Rahul Tripathi cracked Nabi for a pair of boundaries in the middle overs, the offspinner bounced back in his last over, the 18th of the first innings, to dismiss a well-set Rana and captain Eoin Morgan off successive deliveries.
Against left-handers, Nabi has taken 10 wickets at an average of 15.30 and strike rate of 5.43 in the IPL. However, against right-handers, he has picked up only three wickets, with his average and strike rate shooting up to 66.00 and 7.92 respectively.
Why did Harbhajan open the attack for KKR?
In the lead-up to IPL 2021, Harbhajan Singh hadn't played competitive cricket for nearly two years. His last match was the IPL 2019 final for Chennai Super Kings in the pre-Covid times. Harbhajan will turn 41 this July, but Morgan tossed the new ball to him straightaway in the Knight Riders' defence of 187. This could have been down to his success against David Warner. Before this game, Harbhajan had bested Warner four times while keeping him to 133 runs off 107 balls in T20 cricket. Harbhajan drew a sliced drive from Warner first ball, but Pat Cummins dropped the catch at backward point.
With the Sunrisers' middle order packed with right-handers, Harbhajan's bowling stint ended with that opening over.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo