Did Kohli miss a trick by feeding spin to Narine?
Sunil Narine‘s reputation as an early-overs smasher is only growing by the day, and a large part of it has been built by his fearsome hitting ability while facing spin early on. While opening the batting in T20s, Narine averages 15.93 against pace and 36 against spin, and ESPNcricinfo’s control percentages show that he is in far more control (69%) against spin than against pace (51%).
Control percentages matter little for a pinch-hitter like Narine, but his dismissal figures tell a story: in 36 innings, he has been dismissed 29 times by pace, while also finding it harder to get away, while spin has only got him six times in 18 innings. When he blitzed to what was then the fastest IPL fifty last year, 30 of his runs came off 10 Samuel Badree balls, and it took an Aniket Choudhary bouncer in the seventh over to dismiss him.
Today’s innings was almost identical, as RCB fed him liberal doses of spin, with 30 of his runs coming against Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal. No long-offs for the offspinner, vacant acres in the deep midwicket region for the legspinner – most of it made little sense, especially for an opponent who has borne the brunt of his hitting not too long ago. Chris Woakes, who is not an express quick, got the same treatment bowling a combination of slower and wider ones, right in Narine’s hitting zone.
When express pace finally came on in the sixth over in the form of Umesh Yadav, Narine backed away to a low full-toss, and inside-edged onto his stumps. By then, he had made 50 off 19, with an incredible Smart Strike Rate of 395.64.
Five overs of spin in the Powerplay
Only once in IPL’s history have more overs of spin been bowled in the Powerplay, and the Knight Riders came in with a plan against the big-hitting quartet of Quinton de Kock, Brendon McCullum, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Together, Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla went for 38 runs off their 5 overs, picking up de Kock’s wicket, a creditable return against a line-up of that ability. If not for Vinay Kumar’s expensive first over, their Powerplay would have been a greater success than ending up on 52 for 1.
Bizarre non-no-ball calls
It is now well-known and widely documented that the relaid Eden Gardens wicket suits pace a lot more than spin. Since the beginning of last year’s IPL, pacers have taken a wicket every 20 balls when they have bowled short or back of a length, the third-best strike rate for those lengths after Feroz Shah Kotla and the Wankhede.
Today, there were a number of occasions when the number of bouncers exceeded two per over, which went largely unnoticed by the on-field umpires Abhijit Deshmukh and C Shamsuddin, not least the caught-behind decision against Rinku Singh, both of whose feet were in the air when he edged a Chris Woakes bouncer – the third of the over, though none elicited a signal from the umpire – to the keeper.
As per ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball data, 75 deliveries were pitched short or back of a length, for an abnormally high average of 4.68 balls per over of pace. They yielded three wickets in total, but more crucially kept the run-scoring in check, with 37 back-of-a-length balls going for just 5.35 runs an over.