Following a five-match losing streak, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) finally managed to cross the finish line on Thursday (15 October) in Sharjah against Royal Challengers Bangalore to keep their campaign alive in IPL 2020. It was a game filled with a lot of drama and contrasting fortunes. Both teams made a lot of tactical blunders throughout the 40 overs, so much so that towards the climax, it seemed both were trying their best to lose. But in the end, Punjab had the last laugh by chasing down 172 on the final ball of the match.
Here are some of the major talking points coming out from this closely fought fixture.
Spinners dictate terms
We witnessed quite a few spin-duels in this game. On that tired Sharjah pitch, Punjab included two leggies – Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin – in their XI, primarily to counter the AB de Villiers threat. Furthermore, against the RCB left-handers, KL Rahul's surprise move of using the part-time off-spin of Glenn Maxwell (4 overs for 28 runs) worked pretty well too. Comparatively, the Bangalore spinners were not that successful though many believed they were not handled properly by Kohli in this particular fixture.
Interestingly, towards the end, defending just two in the final over against the likes of Chris Gayle and Rahul, Chahal almost did the impossible. He took the game till the last ball and narrowly missed out from making Punjab choke yet again in this IPL.
Can't AB de Villiers handle leg-spin?
Was it really necessary to have a left-right combination in the middle against the Punjab slow bowlers or do RCB really believe that de Villiers, who has been a batting sensation in this IPL, can't handle two uncapped leg-spinners?
There is no other way one can justify the thought-process of delaying the arrival of the best batsman of the tournament to the crease, especially when the team was looking for a push in the scoring rate.
Batting first the Royal Challengers lost their second wicket in the seventh over, but instead of de Villiers coming in at his usual No 4, it was left-handed Washington Sundar who walked out to join Kohli at the crease. Then even when they lost their third wicket in the 11th over, Shivam Dube got a surprise promotion in the batting order. Eventually, when de Villiers did come out to bat there were only 24 balls left in the innings – a much lesser time to have any significant impact in the game.
Yes, de Villiers did get out against leg-spinners on a few occasions in this competition but one can expect a batsman of his calibre to rectify his mistakes. Unfortunately, the decision of holding him back did not work in this game but if one sees the bigger picture, it can be a blessing in disguise for RCB as the team management is now unlikely to repeat such a tactical blunder.
Gayle's much-anticipated comeback
Batting out of his normal position, the 'Universal Boss' Chris Gayle showcased his class and hunger for runs in this comeback game. Before Thursday, Chris Gayle had opened in 122 out of his 124 IPL innings. However, here he came out on the backdrop of the 78-run (in 48 balls) opening stand between Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. The 41-year-old, playing his first competitive game since January, adapted to his new role pretty well and did not allow RCB bowlers to dictate terms. After getting his eye in, when Gayle went after Sundar and Mohammed Siraj on his way to a 36-ball half-century, he looked at his vintage best.
Kohli's weird bowling plan
As a leader on the field, Virat Kohli has never been a tactical genius. But at least he tends to follow the basic template. However, in this particular game, he was all over the place with his bowling plans.
Firstly, Sundar, who in this competition has one the best economy rates in the powerplay, did not bowl a single delivery until the ninth over. Perhaps, because of the presence of two right-handers (Rahul and Agarwal), he was held back, which actually was a very defensive move. Applying the same old-fashioned logic, RCB's number one wicket-taking option Chahal did not complete his quota because Gayle was batting in the middle-overs.
Also, it was surprising for many to see left-arm seamer Isuru Udana bowling just a couple of overs for 14 runs whereas relatively inexperienced Siraj ended up getting one over more despite being expensive.
Why didn't KXIP go for a NRR boost?
Though Kings XI have secured much-needed two points from this fixture, one must feel that they unnecessarily dragged the game till the last ball. Punjab needed 11 off the last three overs with nine wickets in hand and with two set batsmen at the crease. At that stage, they were expected to finish it with a few overs to spare to get a boost in the Net Run Rate (NRR) in order to create chances of making a backdoor entry in the playoffs. However, quite strangely, there was not enough intent shown by either Rahul or Gayle to go for that one big hit in those final overs and the ploy almost backfired.
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