Five new things we learnt about T20 cricket from IPL 2018

Ajinkya Rahane's bat turns in his hand upon impact with the ball BCCI

Goodbye, accumulators

Based on ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, if Ajinkya Rahane hadn't batted at all this season, Rajasthan Royals would have scored 51 more runs. Rahane's 370 runs this season - at a Smart strike-rate of 101 - was the antithesis of how T20 cricket has evolved since last season: similar numbers in IPL 2017 for Rahane had almost helped Rising Pune Supergiant win the IPL.

He's not the only one. Quinton de Kock, Gautam Gambhir, D'Arcy Short, Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa fall in the same bracket and have the season's poorest numbers. Each of them has cost their teams between 33 and 41 runs. They didn't make any noteworthy performances to offset these numbers either. It's not impossible to turn it around - Kane Williamson and Ambati Rayudu, are your best examples.

Spin's a Powerplay power move

It's long been a theory that bowling a spinner in the innings' first over helps the fielding side get an over out of the way cheaply, and it's been implemented this season in the IPL. Piyush Chawla and Nitish Rana did that for KKR this season, while K Gowtham did so at Royals.

But apart from the first over, teams have used spin in the Powerplay much more in IPL 2018. Shakib Al Hasan bowled at least two overs in the Powerplay for most of the season, Mayank Markande for the early part of the tournament, and R Ashwin's innovative use of his spin resources stood out in that regard.

In Kings XI Punjab's game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Ashwin chose to bowl five overs of spin in the Powerplay, rotating his three spin options to strangle RCB's batting effort. The tactic doesn't always work, but it's one that's being used more than ever. In 2016 and 2017, spinners bowled 130 and 158 overs in the Powerplay. This year they bowled 191.

One giant leap for big-hitting

The most number of sixes hit in IPL 2017 was Glenn Maxwell's 26. This season, there have been nine who have hit more than that. Rishabh Pant, third last season with 24 sixes, finished this season as the topper with 37. But Pant wasn't the only one to increase his big-hitting prowess. Last year, Williamson hit 10 sixes, this year it's 28. Even six-hitting phenom Sunil Narine increased his tally from 10 in 2017 to 23. Dhoni almost doubled his tally from 16 to 30, Shreyas Iyer went from 10 to 21, Shikhar Dhawan from nine to 14. The list goes on.

And it's not just that the number of sixes has coincided with a rich vein of form. Their balls-per-boundary ratio has also seen a remarkable improvement since last season.

Players like Gowtham and Deepak Chahar have also shown that range hitting has become a skill that batsmen from Nos. 1 to 11 practice at the training. The season saw a record 872 sixes, 167 more than last season and more than 141 since the second-highest six-hitting season (731 in 2012).

The diminishing value of wickets in hand

Time and again this season, both when teams have lost and when they've won, the low value of having wickets in hand has been endorsed.

Chennai Super Kings had no business to send in Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar when they were 24 for 3 against Kings XI Punjab, but they did, knowing that even if they lost two more wickets for no real addition to their total, they still saved two full-time batsmen from facing the swinging ball at that stage.

Rajasthan Royals realised that when they tried using Gowtham as a floater after he caught people's attention after an 11-ball 33. R Ashwin, too, tried to use himself as a No. 3, but that experiment didn't turn out well, but it shows that teams are thinking along those lines. Super Kings showed glimpses of that style in the season's first match, when they won with one wicket in hand. Dwayne Bravo, with CSK seven down, continued to hit the ball knowing fully well that getting out at that stage was curtains for CSK.

Kings XI Punjab, too, played in that manner, and that helped during their winning run in the season's first half, when quickfire twenties and thirties from Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal were enough for a team where they batted as low as No. 8. It did not pay off as the season carried on, but they did not waste their resources. Royals, on the other hand, tried so hard to protect wickets - Rahane, Short, and Ben Stokes, were all guilty of this - that they often lost their steam in a chase of a par score. Or take Sunrisers Hyderabad, who for all their bowling supremacy, struggled with the bat as Manish Pandey attempted to anchor the innings.

IPL 2018 saw the most number of wickets fall per innings, barring the edition that was held in South Africa in 2009.

DRS is here to stay

It's been only a year since Dhoni was pulled up for doing a mock DRS sign during a game, but the IPL has come a long way since then. It was the first season that each team had one review per innings, and the outcomes have shown how crucial getting correct decisions on the field are.

In the season opener, Markande's lbw shout against MS Dhoni was turned down. But the DRS came to the youngster's rescue there to cap off a memorable debut IPL outing. Another howler was to follow, when Kedar Jadhav was erroneously adjudged not out by the umpire, but the blame on not reviewing that falls on Mumbai.

Interventions from DRS helped Faf du Plessis overturn an lbw decision in Qualifier 1 while a rampaging Chris Lynn's bat-pad catch to Watson at first slip are some other examples.

In fact, the powers of DRS should, perhaps, be allowed to clear on-field no balls. Tom Curran was called no-ball during a crucial stage against Mumbai Indians, only for the replays on the big screen to show he was behind the line. There was clear visual proof, but the umpires could not correct their decision despite the glaring evidence.