What will the future of the T20 look like? Well, it might look something like Sunday night game between Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants. The Royals ultimately won a thrilling contest by three points, but for the neutral the result was perhaps less significant than the tactical battle that unfolded at Wankhede Stadium.
On Sunday, both were finally available and Stoinis walked straight into the squad, even if it meant leaving out Evin Lewis, who has already won an LSG match on his own.
The point of having so many versatile options is not necessarily to use them all all the time, but to have favorable options in most situations. Offspinner Gowtham, for example, entered the XI for LSG games against the Capitals and Delhi Royals, two teams with a significant left-handed presence in their top orders.
Gowtham played a key role on Sunday, taking two wickets and conceding just 14 of 14 balls to Hetmyer, who scored 45 of the other 22 he faced.
Royals push Ashwin in order
Even before the start of the season, it was apparent that the Royals had a big weakness to cover. They had a solid top five on paper and a strong bowling offense (except for late game options) but not a lot of proven muscle at No. 6 and 7. In this game, R Ashwin – who has five hundreds of tests but who is a touch the player rather than a strike out of the ball – was ranked No. 7.
He eventually found himself at No 6, coming on to join Hetmyer in the tenth round for the Royals. That pushed Riyan Parag, who is perhaps better suited to finishing strikes than rebuilding an innings, to No.7.
It was a clear example of the growing realization within the T20 that a batting entry point matters far more than their place in the batting order.
In a game full of tactical intrigue, this was the biggest moment – a moment fans had been waiting for years and years. Two-balled in the 19th inning for the Royals, Ashwin ran off the field, becoming the IPL’s first batter to to retire. It turned out that the idea had been discussed at the Royals think tank, and Ashwin had fully embraced it.
The reason for the decision, of course, was to have a more accomplished six-hitter in the crease at this point in the game. ESPN forecastercricinfo upped the Royals’ projected score by seven points when Ashwin retired, from 152 to 159. With Hetmyer going crazy and Parag hitting a final six, they were left with 165.
Trent BoultThe modus operandi with the new ball is simple and proven. Angle the ball away from the right hitter from the left arm, back it up and target the pitch and lbw.
On Sunday, however, he started around the wicket. He’s only done it once before in the IPL, in 2018, and that was also against the same hitter, Rahul. Maybe he saw something in Rahul’s technique to believe he had better luck from this angle? Maybe, but during the post-match presentation, Boult revealed the idea was suggested to him on the morning of the match by his Royals and New Zealand team-mate James Neesham.
Wherever the idea came from, the execution was brilliant: full, swinging late and splattered stumps as Rahul played all around the ball.
LSG show their flexible batting order
Ashwin’s promotion came out of necessity, thanks to the Royals’ lack of striking depth. LSG has no such issues, blessed as they are with so many all-rounders.
It didn’t work, as Boult knocked it out on the first legal ball he faced. Who would come next? You might have expected it to be Stoinis, who often beats in the Big Bash League top three and for Australia. Or Hooda or Ayush Badoni, both good mid-level hitters.
Instead it was Holder, who can hit a long ball but also has a technique that has earned him three hundred tests. In the circumstances, it is perhaps this last quality that earned this promotion. It didn’t quite pan out, with Holder scoring 8 from 17, but again the move showed the flexibility of LSG’s formation.
Two lefties at the crease
LSG lost their fifth wicket late in the 12th. They now needed 92 balls from 48. At this point Krunal came in to join Quinton de Kock. It was the first time in LSG innings that two batters of the same gender – two southpaws in this case – were in the crease at the same time.
Chahal’s record against left-handers is excellent – since the 2019 season his save rate against them (7.30) is only slightly worse than against right-handers (7.19) – but LSG was trying, maybe , to maximize the marginal gains they could obtain.
They also may have wanted to delay Stoinis’ entry and supported his six-hitter ability in the closing stages of the game.
It turned out that Krunal’s promotion slightly delayed Chahal’s reintroduction – his third inning was LSG’s 16th innings – but he fired both southpaws in that inning.
Holding off Stoinis, however, almost gave LSG an unlikely win. His strikes – and helpful contributions from Dushmantha Chameera and Avesh Khan – brought the equation down to 15 in the final set. The match was eventually won by Kuldeep Sen – who was making his debut for the Royals – who conceded just one run on the first four balls in the final, using the wide line outside the stump so expert at getting the ball away from Stoinis. striking arc.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo