Talking points from the Punjab Kings' win over the Rajasthan Royals in a high-scorer at the Wankhede.
Should Samson have turned down the single?
Just a recap first. Five required off two balls, he has an allrounder in Chris Morris at the other end, but Sanju Samson has been in dream touch, having hit seven sixes in his 119 off 61. Then he gets a ball right in the slot, and he hits it straight to a cleverly placed wide long-off. He refuses to run, drawing almost indignant bemusement from Morris and disbelieving looks from the dugout.
However, if you look back at it, Samson did the right thing and the end result should not change that at all. First of all let's rule out the ideal result on the penultimate ball: two runs. Wankhede is a small ground, the ball was hit hard and straight to the fielder. So the second was probably not on. Had Samson taken the single, he would have watched the last ball from the other end.
Now on to why Samson was better off facing that last ball. If Samson takes the single, he leaves Morris, who is not looking in great touch in his two off four balls, needing a four to tie the match. Royals are in this tight spot because Morris has missed a slot ball last ball of the penultimate over and then hit a full toss straight to extra cover for one in this over. Samson knows that he is likelier to hit a six than Morris is to hit a four. And even if Samson does get four - and not six - he takes it to the Super Over.
You don't second-guess yourself when you make these decisions. It is the execution you can perhaps debate. On the night, Samson missed out on the last ball.
Was it not a masterstroke to promote Hooda?
To say it unequivocally would be just results-based analysis.
The Punjab Kings' late rally last IPL was centred on middle-overs disruptors. Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran just didn't allow the lesser bowlers to get cheap overs in during the middle overs. Pooran and Gayle were among the leading six-hitters in the middle overs of the last IPL. So when Gayle got out in the 10th over, it was natural to question the promotion of Deepak Hooda, especially with a decent amount of legspin lined up.
Pretty soon, though, all questions evaporated as Hooda looked in pristine hitting form, just putting his head down and hitting all the bowlers out of Wankhede Stadium. His 28-ball 64 gave KL Rahul's 50-ball 91 that extra edge, the difference between a challenging and imposing total.
This was not a move based on any match-ups or stats. Hooda said they had decided before the match he was batting at No. 4. It seems a move wherein the team management appeared to have gone with form in the nets over stats.
They were proven right, but would it have been a bad move had it not come off? Not quite. They backed their cricketing judgement, and Hooda backed it with intent. Had he gone out there and tried to hit fewer sixes than Pooran tries to hit during these phases, only then would it have been a bad move.
Are legspinners under pressure?
These are two sides that based a lot of their strategy around two legspinners each, in the middle overs last year. A lot seems to have changed between the IPLs. The Kings decided to focus on pace and dropped one of the legspinners, Ravi Bishnoi. And given the Kings' explosive middle over, which also happens to feature two left-hand batsmen, it seemed the Rajasthan Royals were playing one too many.
And there is a larger trend going around. In the last five years or so, legspinners have nearly phased fingerspinners out of the game, but since the start of 2020 they haven't had a good time of it. The five-costliest spinners over this period have been legspinners: Shadab Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Adam Zampa and Ish Sodhi in that order. Except for Rashid Khan, every legspinner has travelled some distance in this IPL so far. Keep an eye on that.