Why did CSK stick with Faf du Plessis?
In retrospect, the answer to that question is a cursory “duh”, but du Plessis’ selection was another case of Super Kings backing an out-of-form experienced player over an out-of-form youngster in Sam Billings. It is an auction strategy that has reaped rich dividends already. Du Plessis opened the batting ahead of the in-form Ambati Rayudu, anchored the chase, trusted his tail-end partners, and took CSK home with five balls and two wickets to spare. The numbers will say that he has been slow, struggled to find his touch, but when it mattered on a slow track, he more than justified his selection.
Faf was the eighth CSK player to win a Man-of-the-Match award this season, three more than any other team.
Why bowl Brathwaite at the death? Should Bhuvneshwar Kumar have bowled the 19th over?
The debate over whether a side’s best bowler should bowl the penultimate over of a chase will go on, but Williamson stuck to a plan that has worked in the past. Bhuvneshwar is among the most nerveless defenders of targets in the 20th over, and Siddarth Kaul was having a good day until that point, with figures of 3-0-15-2. He was up against a tailender in Shardul Thakur, and few would have fancied him to concede 17 runs off that over. Two edges went for boundaries off the first two balls, by which time the tide had turned.
Brathwaite kept SRH in the game with the bat; now he has kept CSK in the match with the ball
— Sambit Bal (@sambitbal) May 22, 2018
But it was the decision to hand Brathwaite the 18th over that cost Sunrisers. He was playing just his second game of the season, and has leaked runs at the death in previous IPLs. Williamson had two overs of Shakib Al Hasan and one of Sandeep Sharma, but turned to Brathwaite, who conceded a game-changing 20 runs. It takes a brave captain to try a spinner in such crunch situations, and Williamson refrained from doing so.
Smashing a long bucket list, all at once
Do Chennai Super Kings need an out-and-out quick at the top? Why does Ravindra Jadeja play when he’s not even bowling? Why does Dhoni keep giving it to Bravo at the death?
These are questions that have been raised throughout IPL 2018, sometimes from this column, sometimes on social media. Over the past five games, CSK’s bowlers have outdone even Sunrisers’, who were not too long ago the best bowling side going around.
In a big playoff game, their out-and-out quick Lungi Ngidi did the business at the top, keeping it in that uncomfortable short-of-good-length region that makes him so difficult to get away. Back-of-a-length balls had accounted for more wickets at the Wankhede Stadium (26) than anywhere else this season, and Ngidi added one more to the tally by taking out Shreevats Goswami with one that cramped him for room.
Jadeja bowled just 24 balls in CSK’s first four games put together. He went unused every other game, as they went about trying to find their perfect bowling combination. As the tournament has gone on and pitches have become progressively slower, Jadeja has bowled his entire quota in five of his last six games. Nobody, not even Dhoni, would have expected him to bowl 14 dot balls and return figures of 4-0-13-1. And when your fifth bowler is that good, there is little else to be said.
Before today, Dwayne Bravo had gone at 11.92 in the last five overs this season. If you earn your bread as a death bowler in T20s, no matter what your strike-rate is, that is expensive. Bravo came on to bowl the seventh over – the earliest Dhoni has introduced him this season – and bowled out by the 17th, finishing with 4-0-25-2. CSK have now found a better death bowler in Ngidi, and he was left to do the heavy lifting at the end.
There are very few questions left to ask after such a performance, but here’s one Dhoni didn’t need to answer on the night: Why did Harbhajan Singh not bowl? As they say, there’s always one surplus player in Dhoni’s T20 teams, depending on where and whom they play.
Hales out, Brathwaite in. Will Sunrisers live to remember the name?
One of Sunrisers’ biggest problems throughout the first half of the tournament, especially when Shikhar Dhawan was out injured, was the lack of an opener who could race off the blocks. They had Alex Hales ready at hand, but their bowling was doing the job for them not to be too fussed. Hales has since come in and scored at an uncharacteristically slow 125.42, a figure that puts him 17 runs below par, according to ESPNcricinfo’s Smart Stats, our new metrics for T20 cricket.
Sunrisers dropped him after six games, choosing to hand Carlos Brathwaite a debut in their final league game. It seemed like another of those dead-rubber selections, but they persisted with him in the qualifier against CSK, more likely due to his exploits with the ball against Kolkata Knight Riders. Apart from his heroics against Ben Stokes in the World T20 final, Brathwaite’s form in Indian conditions has been patchy at best. He had faced more than 10 balls in an IPL innings just once before, and had mostly come in to bat at the death.
Against CSK, he played out Jadeja for 1 off 5 balls, before feasting on Shardul Thakur’s full balls and half-trackers, taking him for 34 off 13 balls, as his IPL-best 43 not out off 29 pushed Sunrisers from a potentially sub-120 total to 139 for 7. Despite all this happening late in the innings, it was surprising to see Brathwaite finishing the innings without facing more spin bowling.