What was that Super Kings batting order about?
It was R Ashwin who promised to defy conventions by opening with middle-order batsmen and playing openers in the middle order, and lived up to it to an extent by promoting himself to No. 3 earlier in the tournament. His experiment didn't quite work out, but it was his former franchise captain MS Dhoni who took things to a new level against Ashwin's side, first by sending Harbhajan Singh up at No. 5, followed by Deepak Chahar at 6. Both Harbhajan and Chahar are no mugs with the bat - the former has batted in IPL Powerplays in the past, while the latter has two first-class fifties and a T20 strike rate of nearly 127 before this game.
This Harbhajan promotion is basically Dhoni getting a kick out of everyone deeply analyzing this random move right?— Sidvee (@sidvee) May 20, 2018
Super Kings' main target was to get to 76 runs and seal the second spot on the table, while Kings XI had to restrict them to 100 or less to qualify for the playoffs. In conditions where the ball swung prodigiously and seamers regularly bowled with three slips, CSK's top order slid to 27 for 3 after 4.4 overs. Dhoni, who has regularly pushed himself up the order, chose to send pinch-hitters who could play without the pressure of losing their wickets in these bowler-friendly conditions. This way, their specialist batsmen would be saved later on, for when Kings XI's spinners came on to bowl.
As things turned out, Chahar smashed 39 quick runs off 20 balls, at one point carting Ashwin for 19 runs in an over. Should his side need another big-hitter later on, there was a not-so-expected surprise package.
Kings XI middle-order's night out, at long last
Kings XI's batsmen from positions 3 to 6 have played 52 innings between themselves, and their failure to fire throughout the tournament has been among the biggest reasons why they've exited after the league phase for a record ninth time.
After Kings XI's top three perished, Manoj Tiwary and David Miller went about repairing the early damage. Miller, playing only his third game of the season - after having got off to starts both previous times - went about settling their nerves with 24, after which Karun Nair, who came in at No. 6, then made a quickfire fifty to take them past 150. It was just the second fifty by a Kings XI middle-order batsman this season - their first since Nair himself made 50 off 33 in their first game of the season.
However, despite their belated return to form, the lower order folded out without finishing their quota of 20 overs. And if 153 seemed defendable when their pacers made early inroads into CSK's prolific top order, they failed to build on after the Powerplay.
In short, that was the story of Kings XI's campaign in May, as captain Ashwin pointed out after the game.