Match Analysis

Talking Points - What was Ajinkya Rahane thinking?

Trying to understand Rajasthan Royals' baffling approach to the chase, and how they lost even though they had the best of the conditions

Srinath Sripath
What was Ajinkya Rahane doing?
Powerplay: 26 off 18 balls, four boundaries
Middle overs: 20 off 23 balls, one boundary
Rahane batted until the 15th over, steering the chase in a crucial knockout game. A captain leading from the front?
Not quite. He had a strike rate of 112.19 and actually cost Rajasthan Royals seven runs in the context of the match, according to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, our new metrics to understand T20 cricket. Rahane was only the second wicket to fall in the chase but Royals were in a deep hole they had dug for themselves.
In all, Rahane cost his side 51 runs through the tournament, the most among all batsmen going into the last two games. In the IPL, a team that loses only four wickets in a chase wins about 94% of the time. Rajasthan Royals were not one of those teams on Wednesday.
Stuart Binny batting ahead of K Gowtham?
After his slow innings, Rahane was in the dugout when Sanju Samson was dismissed with Royals needing 44 off 19 balls. And in came Binny at No. 5, ahead of Gowtham. Data sometimes fails to explain tactics, and it did so tonight too.
Gowtham has won games for Royals from difficult positions at the death and has actually earned his side 44 runs according to Smart Stats, while Binny has cost them seven. Gowtham needs less than four balls on average to hit a boundary, while Binny needs about 10.
With Heinrich Klaasen struggling against wristspin, Royals needed the other batsman to succeed. Binny made 0 off 3 balls, and left Royals and Gowtham needing 40 off 12, too demanding an ask.
Popular opinion on ESPNcricinfo's live blog concurred: 28 out of 29 voters felt Gowtham should have batted ahead of Binny.
Russell the first-innings hero
Andre Russell has been in outstanding batting form when setting a target, as compared to his form in the second innings. With Dinesh Karthik polishing off KKR's chases, Russell's failures have not hurt the team that much, but when batting first he does a great job.
On Wednesday, he got going when his team-mates struggled for form on a slow Eden Gardens pitch. Once Russell got past five balls of legspin from Ish Sodhi, he went after the Royals seamers and scored 48 off 20 balls off them. Overall, his runs were worth 20 more in the match context, as per Smart Stats.

Srinath Sripath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo