Rashid Khan stays a winner on push to powerplay, SRH though lose a lot
- The Afghan leg-spinner has been a specialist in checking the middle of the innings, but bowling him early doesn’t help the team
What happens when the best T20 slow bowler in the world is brought on in the wrong phase of play? Rashid Khan still stands tall. Nothing changes as far as his bowling figures go. For the first time ever in IPL, he bowled two overs in the powerplay and was bowled out in the eleventh over; he still conceded only 6 runs per over and had a wicket to show, matching his career strike rate (19.34).
But in moving their prime weapon from the middle overs to the first six, struggling and bottom-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad may have wanted to change the game. They remained far from achieving that objective. And the Afghan leg-spinner wasn’t to blame.
Khan, who generally stifles the scoring rate in the middle-overs, came on to bowl the third over, primarily as a match up against Jos Buttler, who he had an edge over in the past. Khan got a full over to bowl to southpaw Yashasvi Jaiswal, who took some risks attacking with sweep shots and got two boundaries away. The wily spinner kept varying his deliveries, bowling more wrong ones. Jaiswal completely missed a pull off the final delivery that kept straight, was quicker in the air and Khan had his first wicket.
His next was a four-run over with Buttler almost hauling out at long-on off the final ball. Considering that Rajasthan Royals got only 42 runs in the first six overs in an innings where 219 runs were scored, Khan had played his part. But Buttler remained unbeaten.
With the attacking Englishman and Sanju Samson still at the crease, new skipper Kane Williamson, who had taken over from David Warner, decided to bowl Khan out. “These are risks you need to take in T20 cricket rather than letting the game unfold,” he said later. Khan bowled the ninth and eleventh overs, but the batsmen took few risks. Middle overs or opening, Khan remained the most difficult bowler (1-24) to score of or play an attacking shot against, even when the opposition scored at eleven an over.
On paper, using Khan as a powerplay resource where batsmen generally take more risks was a positive ploy. But the SRH bowling unit so used to controlling the middle overs with Khan’s trickery lost the plot once the ace spinner finished his quota. Wary of using his off-spinner Mohammed Nabi against on-the-charge right-handers—Buttler and Samson—Williamson ended up employing his fifth bowler (Nabi and Vijay Shankar) for half of the final six, a phase when Rajasthan got 94 runs with Buttler smashing a 64-ball 124.
Khan’s firm grip over the middle overs can be understood when one takes a deeper look at his showing in that phase in the last two IPLs— most wickets (28) with best economy rate (5.44), best dot-ball percentage (45) and second-best boundary scored-against percentage (7), as per Cricviz. His strike rate of 21.2 is good but not quite the best, with batsmen preferring to play him out.
Pushing the most economical bowler in IPL history (6.23) from the middle overs to bowling during the fielding restrictions was a proactive move, but on the day SRH simply didn’t have the bowling back-ups for it to pay dividend.