Talking Points from the Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Sunrisers Hyderabad game in Sharjah.
Virat Kohli's troubles against Sandeep Sharma continue
No other bowler has got Virat Kohli out as many times in the IPL as Sandeep Sharma. Seven, that's how many times a bowler with the international experience of just two T20Is has bested the India and Royal Challengers Bangalore captain - and one of the best in the world across formats - in the competition. It is not an insignificant number.
David Warner, the Sunrisers Hyderabad captain, recognised that fact when he kept Sharma on for his third straight over in the powerplay. Knowing that the pitch was slow, Sharma took off the pace off the ball: his first ball to Josh Philippe was just 113kph, and the next one, to Kohli, was 123kph, which was driven through the covers for two.
Sharma sensed that Kohli would attack him on what is the smallest ground around, but he had an ace up his sleeve. He asked wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha to come up to the stumps, and challenged Kohli with a 126kph delivery, pitched on a length. On cue, Kohli attempted to clear cover, but hit straight into the hands of Kane Williamson, stationed at short extra cover.
That was Strike Seven for Sharma against Kohli. It is also the joint-highest in the IPL for a bowler getting a batsman out - Zaheer Khan had got the better of MS Dhoni that many times too.
Were Royal Challengers Bangalore one batsman short?
In the two matches they had lost before this one, against the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings, there was one clear weakness for the Royal Challengers: their lower-order batting. Despite that, today, they left out Shivam Dube to make space for their best quick bowler, Navdeep Saini, who had to sit out the match against the Mumbai Indians after hurting a webbing on his bowling hand in the defeat against the Super Kings.
However, was it wise playing four fast bowlers - Saini, Chris Morris, Mohammed Siraj and Isuru Udana - on a slow surface? The Royal Challengers might argue that the strategy worked in Sharjah when they beat the Kolkata Knight Riders comfortably and lost a close match against the Kings XI Punjab. But both those matches were played in the first half of the tournament, when the pitches were still relatively fresh. Now, the surface is not just slow, but also the dew gathered pretty quickly and it became more difficult for bowlers to grip the ball.
Would it then have been prudent for the Royal Challengers instead to field an extra batsman - Dube or even Moeen Ali - to bolster the lower order, which once again failed, re-establishing the fact that the Royal Challengers continue to be heavily dependent on Kohli and AB de Villiers to succeed?
Did Sunrisers' brisk powerplay batting help them?
In a word: yes. Only once before in this IPL had Sunrisers made a quicker start in the Powerplay: when they dashed off the blocks to raise 77 in the victory against the Delhi Capitals in their previous match. Although the target was just 121 here, the dew factor coupled with the slow nature of the pitch could potentially have proven to be a massive hurdle for David Warner's team.
But, after Warner perished early in the chase, Manish Pandey and Saha showed courage to take risks that took the Sunrisers to 58 for 1 after the first six overs and eventually that paid off. The powerful start ensured the Sunrisers continued to be ahead of the curve despite a couple of hiccups in the middle overs. The experienced Jason Holder came in and duly sealed victory without breaking a sweat.