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Match Analysis

Talking Points - Kings XI Punjab's spectacular slowdown

Did Dwayne Bravo's absence help Super Kings, and how crucial is Sarfaraz Khan to Kings XI's prospects?

The target: 161
After 12 overs of the chase, Kings XI: 91 for 2, just 70 away with 48 balls left
From there, Kings XI added just 47 more runs, lost three more wickets and finished 22 behind Chennai Super Kings' 160 for 3, undone at Chepauk with a botched chase. Chepauk isn't the easiest pitch to score runs on when the ball gets old. Kings XI found that out to their consternation on Saturday.
But the slowdown was dramatic as it was dismal.
KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan, the batsmen in the middle - and seemingly in control - hit not a single four or six for 37 balls, between overs 11.5 to 18.1. The required rate at 11.5 overs was a gettable 8.69. At 18.1, with 11 balls left, it had soared to 19.25.
It was abject all right.
Bravo's injury a blessing in disguise for Super Kings?
"It's a big loss, he offers so much balance to the team," Mike Hussey, the Chennai Super Kings batting coach, said when Dwayne Bravo was ruled out for two weeks, just before their match against Kings XI Punjab, saying that "a little bit of rejigging" was on the cards as a result.
Bravo, at his best, is a superb late-order batsman, a wicket-taking medium-pacer, and an outstanding fielder. He's also 35, and not at the peak of his powers any more.
In fact, as a death bowler, which has been his primary role with Super Kings of late, Bravo has been far from at his best since the start of the last IPL season.
With Bravo gone, Super Kings needed two replacements. Quite usual when it comes to a star allrounder. So MS Dhoni had Faf du Plessis to open with Shane Watson, pushed Ambati Rayudu down the order, and handed Scott Kuggeleijn an IPL debut.
"We have communicated to all the players as to what are the scenarios where they will feature in. And I think it's that one slot, you know, that will keep changing according to the opposition and the conditions," Dhoni had explained after Super Kings' first win of the season, at the time speaking specifically about Harbhajan Singh taking the field against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
By playing only three overseas players in their last game, Super Kings had left room for a double substitution for one man's absence. Useful. And very Dhoni. Not to forget du Plessis' contribution in his first match of the season: 54 in 38 balls, and a big part in Super Kings' best opening stand for the season so far, 56 in 7.2 overs with Shane Watson. And Kuggeleijn's - his first delivery in the IPL went for a six courtesy Sarfaraz, but he ended with 2 for 37, picking up two wickets later on.
Sarfaraz gives Kings XI middle-order solidity
Kings XI finished one from bottom in IPL 2018, with six wins from 14 games. Among the reasons for that could well have been the excessive dependence on Chris Gayle and KL Rahul at the top and the poor run by the middle-order batsmen (Nos. 4 to 6).
Speaking specifically about the No. 4, perhaps the most crucial position among those three in terms of putting up the big runs, last season, Kings XI needed a No. 4 to go in 13 times, and played Karun Nair there on eight occasions (149 runs), Yuvraj Singh twice (24), and Aaron Finch (26), Marcus Stoinis (1) and Manoj Tiwary (35) once each.
This year, it has been David Miller once, against Mumbai Indians when he scored 15 not out off 10 balls, and Sarfaraz Khan on every other occasion. And Sarfaraz has delivered on the whole, with scores of 46 not out, 13, 39 and, in Chennai against Super Kings in the latest outing, 67. It can, of course, be argued that his last innings took 59 balls, and contributed in the slowdown that led to a 22-run defeat.
With Gayle slotted in to provide the early impetus, Rahul there to bat through the innings if possible, and Mayank Agarwal, Miller and Mandeep Singh around to play specific roles, it's the No. 4 hole that Kings XI desperately needed someone to make his own. Sarfaraz has put his hand up. Now to clean up the finishing act.
Whose 'home' is it anyway?
It was a good day out for the two lead offspinners from the two sides.
Ashwin, the Chennai boy in the opposition camp, came on and bowled the second over of the Super Kings innings, sent back Watson in his second over, the eighth of the innings, and then bowled a double-wicket over, his last and the 14th of the innings, to finish with 3 for 23. Watson, du Plessis and Suresh Raina not a bad bagful at all.
After the change of innings, it was the turn of the Punjab boy in the Chennai line-up, Harbhajan. Second over of Kings XI's chase, and the veteran, with lower speeds and more turn than usual, first got Gayle to nick behind to Dhoni, and then had Mayank Agarwal holing out at long-on for a double-wicket maiden. Damage was done very, very early on.
Harbhajan delivered only the sixth maiden over in Powerplays in IPL history. Amazingly, three of those are against his name. Together, Ashwin and Harbhajan conceded five runs an over in a game where the scoring rate hovered around 7.5.