Why did R Ashwin choose to bat first?

The first thing R Ashwin did once he was appointed Kings XI captain was to tell the world that he'd take contrarian decisions, if the situation demanded it. Four games in and he's already taken a bunch of calculated punts, most of which have come off.

On Thursday, in the 16th game this season, he became the first captain to win the toss and bat. His reasons were backed by logic too: to put the Sunrisers' batting, their weaker suit, under pressure in a big chase on a big ground, and to give his own batsmen time to get going against a highly-rated bowling attack.

There has been enough said about T20 starting to become a win-toss-win-game format, because chasing sides are increasingly confident of hunting down any score, but here was a captain happy to put a conditions apply asterisk to that theory. Unlike most other Indian stadia, Mohali has big boundaries, demands a lot of running from batsmen, and can only be cleared at will by a big hitter like Chris Gayle. In David Warner's absence, that's an area Sunrisers aren't particularly well-equipped in this season. And for all that, chasing is talked of as a winning formula; totals of 180-plus have been chased only about one on five times in the last five years.

Winning the toss was half the job done, but this time, for a completely different reason than what we've become accustomed to this season.

What went wrong for Rashid Khan?

Rashid Khan is the world's No. 1 T20 bowler, and his rise over the past couple of years has been phenomenal. If you go by the numbers, he ticks all boxes. He can bowl in all phases and can get batsmen out whenever they try to hit him out.

This game could have turned out so differently if Wriddhiman Saha had held on to an under-edge off Rashid's first ball to Gayle. It was a tough chance off one that kept low, but Rashid and Sunrisers paid the price for it. A juicy full toss next up was walloped beyond midwicket, and there began Rashid's struggle.

For once, his variations did not matter, since he kept it too full (24 runs off 4 balls) in Gayle's hitting arc. No boundary in the world is big enough for a Gayle in full tilt, and he used his reach to smash Rashid around the park. The scorecard says Rashid managed eight dot balls, but the uncharacteristic number in those bowling figures is the seven sixes next to them. It was a night Rashid broke all sorts of unwanted records, as his rare, inconsistent day bowling full lengths cost him dear.

How Kings XI upset Sunrisers' well-laid plans

Sunrisers' seamers finished with 2 for 89 from their 12 overs, a creditable effort on a day Gayle smashed another hundred. A lot of it was due to the lengths they bowled in the first 10 overs. By bowling good length, angling it across Gayle and mixing it up with shorter variations, they kept him relatively quiet. However, with Gayle targeting Rashid's bowling at the other end, and his excellent record against left-arm spin, (IPL Strike Rate: 261, and a boundary every over) Shakib Al Hasan had to be held back.

The pace attack did its best, but Gayle's fireworks against the spinners made all that effort meaningless. In the end, it was Kings XI's pacers who had enough on the board to execute their plans and match-ups to perfection. Ashwin's brave move at the toss against the tournament's best bowling attack might just have birthed the next big trend of this season.

Srinath Sripath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo