The talking points from the IPL 2020 game between the Kings XI Punjab and the Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai.
Why did Gayle not open?
With Mayank Agarwal missing - he suffered some bruising in the last match and is likely to be available for their next game - the Kings XI brought in Mandeep Singh to open, opting to leave Chris Gayle at No. 3.
That decision was likely influenced by two Gayle match-ups: one good, one bad. Sandeep Sharma has had the better of Gayle whenever he has bowled to him in the IPL, dismissing him four times in 59 balls. Given Sandeep had bowled three powerplay overs in two of the Sunrisers' last three games, it made sense to shield Gayle from him.
Meanwhile, Gayle has been one of the few men to achieve sustained success against Rashid Khan: he had hit 79 runs from the 45 balls he had faced from him in all T20s before tonight, while the Kings XI's other middle-order batsmen Glenn Maxwell and Nicholas Pooran had both struggled to score against him.
The decision appeared to have worked when Gayle avoided facing Sharma, and hit Khan's fifth ball for six over wide long-on - though when he fell to Jason Holder just at the halfway point in the innings, it left two overs of Khan for the rest of the batting line-up to negotiate.
Is time running out for Maxwell?
This was the 80th match of Glenn Maxwell's IPL career, and his stats in the competition do not make for pretty reading: he averages 22.04, and while his overall strike rate is an impressive 155.01, it has been a sluggish 102.00 this season.
Attempting a rebuild with Nicholas Pooran, he knocked the ball around for 12 balls, before holing out to David Warner at wide long-on with his first boundary attempt. Maxwell has now faced 100 balls in the season without hitting a six, and nobody who has faced that many balls has scored at a slower pace.
It will be interesting to see whether he keeps his place against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the next game - though with several left-hand batsmen in the opposition, his offspin can come handy.
Why did Jordan come in for Neesham?
After a solid contribution in the win against the Delhi Capitals, James Neesham was left out for Chris Jordan. It was a move that strengthened the Kings XI's bowling but weakened their batting, with Jordan slotted at No. 7 and four genuine tailenders after him. The issues with that move were laid bare when Maxwell and Pooran found themselves having to knock the ball around after KL Rahul and Gayle fell in successive balls, knowing that they did not have the batting depth required to keep attacking in their usual gung-ho way.
Perhaps the decision was made in the knowledge that Maxwell would have less of a role with the ball. David Warner and Jonny Bairstow both have superb records against offspin, meaning that Maxwell - who had opened the bowling in the Kings XI's last three games - had to be held back. As a result, the Kings XI opted to play five frontline bowlers rather than splitting four overs between allrounders Maxwell and Neesham. It proved to be an excellent call, with Jordan coming up trumps at the death to finish with 3 for 17 from his four overs.
Warner's fast start
Faced with a low target and the opportunity to improve the Sunrisers' net run rate, Warner got off to an uncharacteristically fast start this season. So far in the tournament, he had struck at just 97.70 in his first 15 balls, generally getting himself set and trying to bat through the innings while letting Bairstow fly out of the blocks.
But tonight, he decided to attack early and take the required rate below six as soon as possible: he hit two sixes in his first eight balls, lofting Mohammed Shami over extra cover and slog-sweeping Arshdeep Singh over square leg.
He was dismissed in the seventh over, gloving a reverse sweep through to Rahul, but by that point, the Sunrisers had a 96.17% chance of victory, according to ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster. It was also the first time since May 2014 that Warner had been dismissed without reaching a half-century against the Kings XI, a run which saw him put up nine consecutive fifties against them.
What has happened to Bairstow against legspin?
Last season, Bairstow was dismissed by legspin in each of his first five IPL innings - although he made 39, 45, 114, 48 and 16 in them. But all told, he was brutal against leggies in his first IPL season, scoring at a belligerent strike rate of 189.88 against them.
This year, it has been a different story. He has managed only 73 runs in 63 balls against legspinners, being dismissed four times in the six innings he has faced them. His issues against them were evident tonight as he struggled to read M Ashwin out of the hand, making 12 off 12 balls against him before being bowled around his legs while sweeping the first ball he faced from Ravi Bishnoi.
What was Pandey thinking?
Following a superb, match-winning innings against the Rajasthan Royals, Manish Pandey's turgid knock of 15 off 29 balls was almost inexplicable. Coming in with 71 required off 82 balls, perhaps it was understandable that he didn't come out all guns blazing, but according to ESPNcricinfo's data, he didn't attempt a single boundary.
He struggled against Bishnoi in particular, scoring only six runs from the 12 balls he faced from him. While the pitch became slower and slower as the innings went on, Pandey's innings undid the work that Warner and Bairstow had done in breaking the back of the chase against the new ball, and when substitute J Suchith took a spectacular catch at long-off, the required rate was above seven.
Why was Holder not used to counter the spinners?
Since 2018, Jason Holder had scored at a strike rate of 147.39 against spin in all T20s, and just 110.66 against seamers coming into this game. For Vijay Shankar, those numbers are almost inverted: 106.56 against spin, and 146.31 against seamers. As a result, it seemed like a strange call to leave Holder in the lower-middle order rather than promoting him to counter Bishnoi and Ashwin.
With such a fine margin between victory and defeat in the end, and with Holder struggling against the seamers in his innings of 5 off eight balls, it could have been the crucial difference.