Why does KL Rahul start so slow?
Unlike a number of other sides, Kings XI don't bat deep, nor do they have big hitters like Hardik Pandya or Andre Russell to come in and go all guns blazing in the end overs. And therefore, it looks like they have given KL Rahul a role to play this season - drop the anchor and get the rest of the batting line-up to bat around him. It's markedly different from how he went last season: rattle off the blocks in the Powerplay and put them in a position of strength early on.
This time around, Rahul has started slowly numerous times, and in a steep chase of 213 on Monday, he made only 39 off his first 36 balls, letting the asking rate climb over 15 per over with five wickets falling at the other end. He started going for boundaries after 13 overs, but by then, the equation had got out of hand.
It has been a pattern through their season. Against Chennai Super Kings, Rahul scored 55 off 47 balls and Kings XI fell short by 22 runs in a chase of 161. In their next game, at home, Kings XI just about chased down 151 against Sunrisers on the penultimate ball of the match with Rahul unbeaten on 71 off 53, after being on 26 off 24 at one point.
This time in Hyderabad, he started with a flurry of dot balls against Khaleel Ahmed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, similar to what Shane Watson has done at times before teeing off against the other bowlers, but Rahul couldn't quite get going against Rashid Khan too. By the end of his innings, he had defended as many as ten balls, for just one run. It was a weird figure in a 200-plus chase, and despite another big score from their opener, Kings XI fell short yet again.
Warner v Kings XI: What else was gonna happen?
Whenever Sunrisers Hyderabad play, this has turned into a David Warner appreciation page: here, look how he hares those twos, look how he dominates the spinners.
Warner has been on such a hot streak - well, ever since he signed for Sunrisers back in 2014 - that he is now gone past 500 runs every single season for them. Against Kings XI Punjab, he extended a streak of consecutive 50-plus scores to eight. All taken, this was his ninth fifty of the season, in 12 innings.
If, by now, you are tired of Warner's excellent numbers, here's just one last stat (promise). Warner has dominated spin like no other batsman in IPLs: he has wrapped up this year's tournament averaging 173 against spin. That is just two dismissals in 12 innings, off 218 balls.
Sunrisers have two more league games to go after this one, and they'll have a Warner-shaped hole to fill at the top of their order, as he leaves on international duty.
Should Ashwin have bowled Mujeeb at the death?
Given Kings XI were playing only five bowlers once again (they were forced to turn to part-timers Mandeep Singh and Sarfaraz Khan earlier in the season), captain R Ashwin had no choice but to bowl all of them out on Monday too, by trying to manage them in the best possible manner.
One of the issues was when to give Mujeeb Ur Rahman his last over after he had leaked 40 in his first three. Would you give him his fourth in the death? In IPLs so far, Mujeeb has bowled in the middle overs with an economy rate of 6.80 and in the death at 10.80. Ashwin had one over of his own and one of Mujeeb, who had just bowled the 14th over. If one has to go by the numbers and how cleverly Ashwin bowls according to situations, he should have saved himself for the death as he has conceded at 7.80 in that phase in IPLs since 2015.
Ashwin, instead, chose to bowl the 16th and made Mujeeb bowl the 18th, by when Sunrisers were marching at nearly 10 an over. It also meant Mujeeb had to bowl to his Afghanistan team-mate Mohammad Nabi, who later said he picked the mystery spinner off the hand without any trouble. Nabi smashed two sixes in the 18th over in which Mujeeb leaked 26, to end with 4-0-66-0, the most expensive figures by a spinner and an overseas player in the IPL's 12-year history.
"I know Mujeeb, we've played for three years for Afghanistan so that's why it's easy to hit him," Nabi said in the innings break. "I pick him from the hand - straighter one or googly and I move [into my shots] better."
Earlier in the game too, Ashwin chose to come into the attack right at the end of the Powerplay, after giving Mujeeb two overs even though Ashwin is the third-best Powerplay spinner (minimum 25 overs) in the history of IPL, going by economy rates. Mujeeb also has impressive numbers in the Powerplay, but one wonders why Ashwin held himself back because Sunrisers had already powered to 66 by the time he brought himself on.