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Match Analysis

What's going on with KL Rahul's batting?

Also: why didn't Gayle play and what exactly happened with Mujeeb's review

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Why did Rahul not play with more intent?
KL Rahul has been tasked with batting through the innings for Kings XI Punjab, but the effectiveness of that role was up for debate in a chase of 202. After selling Mayank Agarwal down the river with a run-out in the second over, and seeing Prabhsimran Singh crunching Khaleel Ahmed straight to cover point, Rahul ticked over in the powerplay: he was 11 off 15 balls after six overs, without playing a single attacking shot according to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data.
When he eventually freed his arms, it was a poor option: the left-hand batsman Nicholas Pooran had hit left-arm spinner Abishek Sharma's first two balls for six, then taken a leg bye, and the right option for Rahul was to pinch a single to get Pooran back on strike to continue exploiting a good match-up for the batting team. Instead, he took on the sweep, and top-edged a catch to Williamson at deep backward square leg.
Why did Gayle not play?
Wasim Jaffer, Kings XI's batting coach, had suggested ahead of this game that Chris Gayle and Mujeeb Ur Rahman would come into the side, so it was a surprise to see Gayle miss out when they named their side.
But Anil Kumble, their head coach, clarified during the game that Gayle would have played if he had been available. "He was going to play," he told Star Sports, "but he's sick. He's down with some food poisoning so last couple of days he's not had a good time."
How did Mujeeb use a review after the third-umpire's decision?
The scorecard read: Mujeeb Ur Rahman c Bairstow b Khaleel 1. But that only tells part of the story. Mujeeb edged behind, the on-field umpire Anil Chaudhary gave it not out, but Sunrisers Hyderabad didn't review the decision. Chaudhary, however, referred the decision to third umpire Yeshwant Barde to confirm whether it had been a bump-ball.
Barde, using the spin-vision replay, confirmed that the ball had bounced only before passing the bat, and therefore decided to overrule the on-field decision and give Mujeeb out. But Mujeeb, after he had started walking back, then reviewed that decision, since UltraEdge cannot be used for an umpire review. When it eventually was, it showed that he had edged the ball.
"So the umpire's original decision, overturned by the umpire himself, is reviewed by the batsman, who is in fact, out," wrote Varun Shetty on our ball-by-ball commentary. "At the end of it all, KXIP are a review short. Welcome to cricket."
Should Bishnoi have bowled sooner to Sunrisers' openers?
Jonny Bairstow has an intriguing record against legspin across his IPL career: coming into this game, he had scored at an impressive strike rate of 173.21 against it, but was also dismissed once every 18.67 balls. Dig into his record, and you'd notice that his overall numbers were enhanced by some particularly brutal overs against inexperienced players - 41 off 15 balls against Prayas Ray Barman, for example, but two dismissals and 16 runs in 18 balls against Yuzvendra Chahal.
As a result, Ravi Bishnoi could have been a good match-up to Bairstow early on, but with so many new-ball bowlers to choose from, KL Rahul did not use him until the eighth over. By that point, both Bairstow and David Warner were set. Bairstow hit Bishnoi for three boundaries in five balls, and Rahul pulled him out of the attack. Bishnoi returned for the 16th, and then dismissed both openers within the space of four balls; it seemed like a mistake to only give him three overs, two of them late in the innings.
The 16th over, and the dismissal of Warner, also brought the end of the longest wicketless streak by a team within a single IPL season, spanning 219 balls, or 36.3 overs.
Sunrisers' death-over struggles with the bat continue
It is no secret that Sunrisers' batting is top-heavy, but that was demonstrated in dramatic fashion when they stumbled in the final five overs of their innings having been 160 for 0 after 15. Abdul Samad was promoted to No. 3, but made only 8 off seven balls, while Rashid Khan, a useful boundary-hitter against pace bowlers in particular, didn't face a single ball.
Sunrisers added 41 in the last five overs, for the loss of five wickets. It was the third time this season that they had added 45 runs or fewer in the final five overs while batting first, while the other seven teams have done it only twice among them. Even after a massive opening stand and a rejigged line-up, they fell back on Kane Williamson, who was pushed down to No. 5, to score 20* off 10 for a 200-plus finish which proved that their over-dependence on the big names continues.
Why did Warner bowl spin to Pooran early on?
Sunrisers' team combination meant that Warner needed to share four overs between Sharma, Samad and Williamson. When he turned to his occasional bowlers, he was perhaps anticipating Pooran and Glenn Maxwell would look to consolidate after the powerplay. In fact, they are two of the fastest-scoring batsmen in the middle overs in IPL history, and Pooran - an exceptional player of spin, and the ball turning into him in particular - was in no mood to nudge and nurdle.
After those two sixes off Sharma, Pooran pounded a four and four more sixes in Samad's only over, the ninth, fulfilling the desire he expressed to ESPNcricinfo before the tournament to hit the fastest IPL fifty of the season. Perhaps, having taken three early wickets and with only Mandeep Singh and the bowlers to come, Warner could have looked to kill the game by attacking with his seamers or Khan, rather than looking to get through the fifth bowler's overs so early.
What was Cottrell's new-ball plan?
Both Bairstow and Warner have punished anything full from seamers this IPL, which must have influenced Sheldon Cottrell's decision to bowl short and back-of-a-length early on. In his first two overs, not a single ball was classified as 'full' according to ESPNcricinfo's length data. If that was Kings XI's plan, it didn't work: Cottrell is at his best when pitching the ball up and giving it the chance to swing or seam, and by dragging his lengths back he removed any chance of that happening.
Instead, his two powerplay overs disappeared for 28 runs combined, and Sunrisers were up and running. With Kings XI front-loading - picking several new-ball specialists in Cottrell, Mujeeb and Mohammed Shami - in order to tie Bairstow and Warner down, they could not have anticipated such a poor start with the new ball.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98