CricViz Analysis: IPL Roundup – Week Three

Patrick Noone, Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones take a look at the week that was in the IPL.

Chennai Super Kings

This Week – Played 3, Won 3 (v KKR, v RR & v KKR)

A return to form for the defending champions who bounced back from their defeat to Mumbai Indians with three wins on the bounce to cement their place at the top of the league table. The most memorable of their three victories was undoubtedly the dramatic win over Rajasthan Royals, but arguably their twin triumphs over Kolkata Knight Riders will prove to be more crucial when they look back at their campaign. Chennai have pulled away from the chasing pack this week and, with six games still to play, their place in the top four is almost assured.

CSK have been helped by winning three tosses from three, allowing them to play each match to their preferred gameplan of squeezing the opposition with their spin attack, before chasing the target down, usually with ease. Imran Tahir has been their most consistent performer this week, picking up six wickets at an economy rate of just 6.33, while Mitchell Santner has performed a quietly impressive job as the support spinner. The pair have been the spinners to induce the lowest Timing ratings from batsmen this week, illustrating how much control they have exerted, despite two of their three matches being away from their spin-friendly Chepauk home.

The concern for Chennai, if there is one, has been their top order batting. Shane Watson’s scores this week of 17, 0 and 6 are indicative of a poor season for a player who was considered one of CSK’s bankers at the start of the season. Their slightly scratchy starts to batting innings have been reflected in the fact that they have lost more Powerplay wickets and scored a slower rate than any other team in that phase.

While this is in part down to the slow nature of the Chepauk pitch, there is no doubt that CSK’s batsmen are under performing. Up to now, someone in the middle order has always stepped up and Chennai deserve credit for finding ways to win despite players like Watson having a barren run, especially given how key that aspect of their game was last year. Whether it can be sustained remains to be seen.

Next Week – v SRH (A), v RCB (A)

Delhi Capitals

This Week – Played 2, Won 2 (v KXIP & v SRH)

This was a superb week for Delhi who followed up their comfortable victory against RCB last Sunday with more impressive wins over KXIP and SRH to move up to second in the league table. After a tumultuous start to the season marked by dramatic finishes and batting collapses, Delhi’s season is heading in the right direction and after eight matches they have already equalled their points total from last season.

It was particularly encouraging that Delhi’s victories this week were contrasting in nature – with the batsmen tracking down a stiff target of 178 against KKR before their bowlers brilliantly defended 150 against SRH.

One of the major areas of concern for Delhi before this season was their Indian seam bowling. However, so far this season they have been able to rely on Ishant Sharma to fulfill the role by deploying him as a new ball specialist – not once bowling him in the death overs. Across six matches he has taken five wickets at an economy rate of 7.26. Ishant’s excellence with the new ball has allowed Delhi to hold more overs of Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris back and together the South African pair have been sensational, taking 28 wickets between them at an economy rate of 7.95. The performances of Delhi’s spinners – Amit Mishra, Sandeep Lamichhane, Rahul Tewatia and Axar Patel – have been inconsistent but the brilliance of the pace attack has protected against that. Keemo Paul was an excellent addition against SRH, returning figures of 3 for 17. This season Delhi comfortably have the lowest pace bowling average of all teams. Delhi are likely to lose Rabada and possibly Morris to the World Cup but they are making the most of them at the moment.

Delhi’s victory over KKR was powered by Shikhar Dhawan’s 97 not out. Earlier in the season head coach Ricky Ponting expressed concern of Dhawan’s scoring rate, so his strike rate of 153.96 against KKR will have been encouraging. Against SRH, Delhi recovered from a stodgy start with cameos from Rishabh Pant and Colin Munro (in for Colin Ingram who is visiting his newly born baby) elevating them to what proved to be a defendable total. Delhi’s batting remains a little fragile but it appears as if they are beginning to become more familiar with their roles and responsibilities. This is a team heading in the right direction.

Next Week – v MI (H), v KXIP (H)

Kolkata Knight Riders

This Week – Played 3, Lost 3 (v CSK, v DC & v CSK)

It was a horror week for Kolkata Knight Riders who finished last weekend at the top of the table but, after three defeats from three, find themselves in third and looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack. To compound things, star allrounder Andre Russell picked up an injury while bowling during Sunday’s defeat to Chennai Super Kings after failing with the bat for the first time this season.

Taking wickets has been a problem for KKR in this campaign. Russell and Piyush Chawla both have six each, but the lack of penetration shown by their much-vaunted spin attack of Chawla, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav is becoming a real issue for the Knight Riders. Far from the trio being a strength, batsmen are targeting each of them and having plenty of success when doing so. Of spinners to have bowled 100 balls or more, only Krunal Pandya has seen batsmen register a higher Attack rating than the KKR three, while Moeen Ali and Shreyas Gopal are the only spinners to have induced a higher Timing rating.

With the bat, Chris Lynn has carried on his good form with an eye-catching 82 against Chennai in their last outing, but the middle order are consistently finding it difficult to kick on. Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill and Dinesh Karthik did not manage a 30+ score between them this week and, with Russell for once failing to explode at the death and possibly facing a spell on the sidelines with injury, KKR need their engine room to start firing fast. To emphasise the extent of the middle order’s struggles this week, KKR had four of the slowest scorers from positions 3-7 in week 3.

The over-reliance on Russell was always a high-risk tactic and it’s starting to come back to bite them. KKR still have the talent in their ranks, but they need to start performing again quickly, or risk getting sucked into the scramble for top four places.

Next Week – v RCB (H), v SRH (A)

Mumbai Indians

This Week – Played 2, Won 1 (v KXIP), Lost 1 (v RR)

One of the all-time great comeback wins from MI against KXIP on Wednesday took Mumbai’s winning streak to three matches, but that was snapped at the weekend when they slipped up against RR.

Mumbai find themselves relatively well-placed in fourth with a game in hand over the teams above them and they are in this position despite not yet playing anywhere near their best cricket.

Through the season the opening partnership between Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma has generally been fairly solid and Mumbai’s death over hitting has been exceptional, but they have the lowest balls per wicket of any team in the middle overs and bowling has been plagued by inconsistency. Both these issues have cost them matches they should otherwise have won.

With the ball the only two bowlers for Mumbai who have negative True Economy Rates are Jasprit Bumrah and Rahul Chahar. After Alzarri Joseph’s superb debut when he took 6 for 12 he has since bowled five overs for 75 runs without taking a wicket and has now been ruled out of the season. The selection of Jason Behrendorff in Australia’s ODI squad will rob them of another fast bowler from early May as well.

These exact problems were clearly apparent in the defeat against Rajasthan were Mumbai only posted 187 after being 96 for 0 after 10.4 overs and then in the defence Bumrah, Krunal Pandya and Chahar took 4 for 91 from 12 overs (ER 7.58) but the rest of the attack took 0 for 95 in 7.3 overs (ER 14.58).

Next Week – v RCB (H), v DC (A), v RR (A)

Kings XI Punjab

This Week – Played 2, Lost 2 (v MI & v RCB)

The major landmark of the week for a Kings XI Punjab player was KL Rahul’s third T20 century, his first in IPL cricket. Since Rahul debuted in T20, 12 men have made more centuries than him; all of those 12 have played more matches than him. He’s a serious T20 batsman. However, more specifically for KXIP, what he’s done is make a change in his approach, allowing them to play a rather different strategy with the bat. He is attacking less (43% of deliveries, compared to 63% and 53% in 2018 and 2016, respectively), and he’s playing with more control. Just 13% of his shots have brought a miss or an edge, lower than last year and staggeringly lower than the year before, when he played 22% false strokes. The version of Rahul we saw in 2018 was a rapid, dicey opening batsman, that for all his skill was inherently quite unreliable – this year, he’s taken on an extra layer of responsibility that has defined KXIP’s batting approach.

They are cautious in the Powerplay, the second slowest at just 7.68rpo, but with the second largest dismissal rate at 36. As a result, they can use this platform to attack in the middle overs, where they score at 8.7rpo, the fastest of any team. Usefully they also manage to maintain a dismissal rate of 36 in this period, again the second best of any side. This allows them to score at just under 10rpo at the death, the third fastest, accelerating through to the end of the innings with aplomb. Rahul’s consistency and caution at the top, paired with Chris Gayle’s natural inclination to start slow and get quicker, has defined KXIP’s batting this year.

Slow starts have also defined the bowling, and not in a good way unfortunately. KXIP have the worst economy in the first six overs, and the second worst strike rate; Ashwin has been unable to find the right combination of opening bowlers to maintain incisiveness and control. Despite being signed as a Powerplay specialist, Sam Curran has gone wicketless in the first six overs, with an economy of just under 10rpo – for a swing bowler, that is a problem. When you throw into the mix that KXIP also have the worst death overs economy (8.84rpo), it’s not clear where

Next Week – v RR (H), v DC (A)

Sunrisers Hyderabad

This Week – Played 1, Lost 1 (v DC)

Sunrisers have now lost three matches on the bounce, a relatively unknown state of frustration descending on a team used to consistency and control. Kane Williamson’s side have struggled to get a foothold in the competition after a strong start, and now look as if they may have to win five of their last seven matches to ensure qualification for the play-offs.

Despite this, they have had a clear area of strength this season – the Powerplay batting. Traditionally over the last few years, Sunrisers have been cautious at the start of the innings, opting for wicket retention at the expense of the scoring rate. In 2019 however, they have scored significantly faster (8.33rpo their fastest PP scoring rate since 2015), and that increase in power hasn’t come at the expense of dismissal rate. In fact, Sunrisers’ 2019 dismissal rate in the Powerplay – a wicket every 84 balls – is the best ever by an IPL team. Jonny Bairstow and David Warner have taken them to a new level at the start of the innings. That part of the team is working perfectly.

So why are they struggling? Well, the main issue has been the performance of everyone after Warner and Bairstow. Sunrisers batsmen coming in at No.3-7 have scored more slowly than every other side, and have the second lowest dismissal rate. What has long been the weakest element of Sunriser’s approach and recruitment – late-order hitting – has now become a terminal weakness, dragging the whole side down. They are starting innings better than most teams have ever done in IPL history, but they’re unable to capitalise on that platform.

Then, with the ball, it’s been another tale of two halves. In Overs 1-10, Sunrisers have had an economy rate of just 6.47rpo, the second best only behind table-toppers Chennai Super Kings. But they aren’t able to make that pressure pay, conceding over 10rpo at the death. Whereas previous SRH attacks have been able to keep that intensity up across a whole 20 overs, pouncing on any opposition mistakes, too many big players going missing at the death. Both Sid Kaul and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have death economies of over 12rpo this season – that’s unsustainable, and if they don’t improve, will cost SRH their place in the finals.

Next Week – v CSK (H), v KKR (H)

Rajasthan Royals

This Week – Played 2, Won 1 (v MI), Lost 1 (v CSK)

Trying to determine Rajasthan Royals’ strategy has been a difficult task throughout this competition so far. On the face of it they are a bowling heavy side, who select a batting order with plenty of anchoring ballast, hoping that the individual fireworks of Jos Buttler or Sanju Samson can spark an above par score. The latter has been unable to really cut loose, but has still scored briskly alongside Buttler. The issue for RR has been that whilst Buttler has played well this season (288 runs, scoring rate 9.19rpo, dismissal rate 26.8), he’s not had quite the impact he was able to last year, and reasonably so. 2018 Buttler was one of the best streaks of form any T20 player has ever been in – to build a strategy, a batting line-up and squad, around the idea that he could get anywhere close to those levels again, was a folly.

However whilst they are, on the face of it, a bowling-side, they are one who on the whole has bowled poorly. The Rajasthan seamers have continued to struggle significantly this season, recording an economy rate of 9.48rpo, the second worst of any side. Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat have disappointed, particularly the former given the expense that Rajasthan went to in order to secure his services. Jofra Archer has been a soaring success, and an outlier within a struggling attack; getting through 82% of his work at either the start or the death of the innings, he has still maintained an economy rate of just 7.22rpo (True RR -1.26). On a side who look from their batting line-up as if they are meant to be restricting sides with bowling, Archer is one of the few  – arguably the only one – who has delivered on that strategy.

There have also been tactical choices from Rahane which confuse, a little. Shreyas Gopal has the best economy rate of any RR bowler this season, and the second best strike rate behind Stokes. The Englishman benefits from bowling a lot at the death, in this matter – Gopal’s record is nothing to be sniffed at, and he has been right up among the elites in this year’s IPL. In the first three matches of the season, when Rajasthan were getting battered, Gopal bowled out on just one occasion; since then, he has finished his four-over allocation in ever match, with an economy of less than 8rpo in three of those matches. The failure to understand quite what an asset Gopal would be this season, and maximise his effectiveness in those opening matches, is immensely frustrating.

Next Week – v KXIP (A), v MI (H)

Royal Challengers Bangalore

This Week – Played 1, Won 1 (v KXIP), Lost 0

RCB played just one match this week and finally recorded their first win of the season – a relatively comfortable win away at KXIP – powered by a brilliant fifty from AB de Villiers. The win keeps RCB’s tiny hopes of a top four finish alive with a minimum of six wins from their remaining seven matches required if they are to sneak into the Play Offs.

RCB’s win against KXIP was deserved – it was arguably their most complete performance of the season with Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal and Moeen Ali returning excellent combined figures of 3 for 75 from their 12 overs before fifties from Virat Kohl and de Villiers took RCB home.

It was not a complete performance from RCB though with Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Siraj being taken for 96 from their eight overs. However, the control offered by the other three bowlers ensured KXIP only finished with 173 – a below-par total on an excellent pitch in Mohali.

Parthiv Patel has played a useful role for RCB at the top of the order this season and got the chase off to a quick start with a quickfire 19 off 11 balls before Kohli and de Villiers took over in a superb partnership that took RCB to the brink of victory before a 16-ball 28 from Marcus Stoinis pushed RCB over the line.

This victory will have done little to assuage fears that RCB’s bowling remains vulnerable. Moeen, Saini and Chahal are emerging as consistent performers with the ball but the rest of the attack looks very weak. Their batting is also clearly over-reliant on Kohli and de Villiers. That said, a win is a win and they’ll be relieved to finally be on the board.

This week RCB confirmed that Nathan Coulter-Nile would be unavailable for the entire season and will be replaced by Dale Steyn. RCB placed a huge amount of faith in Coulter-Nile to carry their bowling attack – this was a big risk considering his recent injury history and Australia’s reluctance to make players available for the IPL. Steyn will be available from April 18th.

Next Week – v MI (A), v KKR (A), v CSK (H)

CricViz Analysis: IPL Roundup – Week Two

Patrick Noone, Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones take a look at the key themes of the week in the IPL.

Kolkata Knight Riders

This Week – Played 2, Won 2 (v RCB & v RR)

KKR will face tougher tests than the two teams they came up against in week two, but the ruthless nature of their two wins will have sent a warning to the rest of the competition that the men in purple mean business this year. Against a beleaguered Royal Challengers Bangalore side, the Knight Riders chased down 206 with five balls to spare thanks to another astonishing display of hitting from Andre Russell. The Jamaican only arrived at the crease in the 16th over, with KKR needing 67 from 24 balls. RCB’s death bowling was admittedly ropey but Russell’s 13-ball onslaught yielded another 48 runs for the standout player of the tournament so far, dragging his side over the line once again. To put the brutality of Russell’s six-hitting into context: by the time his innings at the Chinnaswamy was done, he had struck more than 10% of the tournament’s total amount of sixes. Russell is currently scoring at 18.88 runs per over during the last five overs, the average across all players in this IPL is just 9.47.

However, KKR did not require Russell’s death over hitting against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday as Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine put on comfortably their best partnership of the season, smashing 91 in 8.3 overs as the Knight Riders easily chased down 140, receiving a welcome net run rate boost in the process. Lynn’s return to form will be most welcome for KKR; the Australian had struggled to get going to in the first three matches, but his 43 against RCB, followed by a 32-ball 50 against Rajasthan means that KKR now have in-form batsmen at both ends of the innings. Their Powerplay run rate is the highest in the competition and, with Russell ready to unleash at the death, it is hard to see much of a weakness in KKR’s batting line up if this form continues.

With the ball, KKR made their first change of the season when Harry Gurney replaced Lockie Ferguson in Jaipur. It was a move that paid off as the Englishman returned figures of 2-21 from his four overs. Ferguson can perhaps consider himself a little unlucky – only three seamers in the competition have drawn a higher false shot percentage than the Kiwi quick, but he was going at 10.55 runs per over and there is little doubt that Gurney’s left-arm angle, coupled with his ability to bowl at the death make KKR’s attack more threatening.

The only concern for KKR has been the form of Sunil Narine with the ball. Last season’s MVP has taken just one wicket from four innings and his economy rate of 8.23 is significantly higher than any previous IPL season he’s featured in. With two huge games against fellow table-toppers Chennai Super Kings this week, KKR could do with their mystery spinner rediscovering his mojo, especially on the spin-friendly surface at the Chepauk.

Next Week – v CSK (A), v DC (H), v CSK (H)

Chennai Super Kings

This Week – Played 2, Won 1 (v KXIP), Lost 1 (v MI)

The defending champions suffered a first defeat of the season at the Wankhede Stadium as Mumbai Indians proved too strong for them on the day. That was a momentary blip as they responded with a convincing win over Kings XI Punjab in their next match. The defeat to Mumbai was notable for the fact that the surface prevented Chennai from overloading their bowling with spinners, a tactic that had defined their three previous wins. Harbhajan Singh was left out in favour of Mohit Sharma, only six overs were bowled by spinners and they were unable to apply their usual stranglehold on the innings as Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard cut loose in the death overs.

Another aspect of Chennai’s gameplan that was disrupted at the Wankhede was Deepak Chahar not bowling his full allocation at the top of the innings. Suryakumar Yadav struck three successive fours off him in his third over and MS Dhoni was forced to withdraw him from the attack early for the first time this season. Dwayne Bravo’s injury was another blow to Chennai’s plans, though Scott Kuggeleijn’s performance against Kings XI was illustrative of the Super Kings’ strength in depth. The New Zealander picked up 2-37 on his IPL debut, demonstrating an effective short ball that accounted for KL Rahul. Kuggeleijn is a different type of bowler to Bravo, and offers less with the bat, but Chennai are showing that they are able to find ways to adapt and win games even once their Plan A has been disrupted.

With the bat, Shane Watson’s form remains a concern at the top of the order – the Australian has only once passed 30 this season – but Chennai were boosted by the inclusion of Faf du Plessis in their last outing. The South African skipper crashed 54 from 38 balls as Ambati Rayudu was shunted down the order to accommodate him. It was a marked improvement for Chennai’s first wicket partnership which, up until that point had not passed 21.

It was a week in which a few chinks in Chennai’s armour were identified, but they have been able to find answers to just about every problem they’ve faced. The upcoming week could be a defining one as they face table-topping Kolkata Knight Riders both home and away.

Next Week – v KKR (H), v RR (A), v KKR (A)

Kings XI Punjab

This Week – Played 3, Won 2 (v DC, v SRH) Lost 1 (v CSK)

Despite being predicted to struggle by many pundits, Kings XI have been one of the stronger teams in this year’s IPL. Part of that has been the form of KL Rahul, who despite struggling in international cricket over the last 12 months has found himself in good nick just at the right time, in IPL terms. 217 runs with a dismissal rate of 44 is a dominating start to the competition. What’s particularly of note though is how his scoring rate has plummeted from previous years; this season he’s scoring at 7.35rpo, compared to 9.51rpo last year, and 8.78rpo in 2017. Rahul is also attacking a lot less – just 38% of his balls faced have been attacked this season, well down on an average of 55% over the last two years. His role has changed. Kings XI are happier for him to play a more secure, cautious role (which he has been, given that just 10% of his strokes have led to a false shot, his lowest ever for a season) and then partner him with a more aggressive batsman, either Chris Gayle or using Sam Curran as a pinch-hitter.

Because he’s not played anything as devastating as Andre Russell’s seemingly nightly pyrotechnics, Rahul has gone under the radar, but the effect he’s had on Kings XI is significant. His caution at the top allows the team to preserve wickets, and accelerate in the middle, which they duly have done. A scoring rate of 8.96rpo in Overs 7-15 is the joint best in the tournament, and Kings XI match it with a dismissal rate of 54, easily the best of the eight teams.

Powerplay bowling has been an issue for Ashwin’s side, recording the worst economy rate in the competition, and a mediocre strike rate of 43.4. Extremely concerning is the performance of AJ Tye; the Australian was a phenomenon last year, winner of the Purple Cap and an excellent all-round threat, but this year has struggled. His economy of 11.66rpo in the Powerplay – and with no wickets – is a cause for worry on the Kings XI benches.

Next Week –  MI (A), RCB (H)

Sunrisers Hyderabad

This Week – Played 3, Won 1 (v DC) Lost 2 (v KXIP, v MI)

After an explosive start to the tournament, led by the batting of Jonny Bairstow and David Warner, Sunrisers have returned to something more like their old selves – but not in a good way. Bowled out for 96 by Mumbai Indians was a real dent to early season success, and then following it up with defeat to Kings XI, unable to defend a middling total, will have been frustrating.

They have still found success in some places. Their economy rate at the top of the innings has been excellent, almost down to below a run-a-ball. They have backed that up with an economy of 6.98rpo in the middle overs, maintaining their reputation as a bowling team – but it ends there. At the death, they have conceded runs at 10.8rpo, a record only beaten by Rajasthan Royals. Whilst some of that will be scarring left by Andre Russell’s magnificent win on the opening weekend, it does reflect a worrying trend – the issues surrounding Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Previously regarded as the premier death bowler in Indian cricket, he has gone the distance so far this season, conceding runs at a whopping 13.55rpo. Sunrisers will still be happy to push teams to the end of the innings, and they do still have an attack capable of limiting the opposition, but when your gun seamer is so off his game, that affects the team substantially.

However, whilst it’s been a tough week, you’d back Sunrisers to come out of this slump in the next few matches. They have played just 17% false shots, a remarkable level of control achieved given their broadly aggressive approach this year, and in David Warner have a man in excellent form at the top of the order. The issue they need to resolve is the overseas balance in the window before the World Cup exodus. Mohammed Nabi has been a comprehensive success (his Overall CricViz Impact of 17.3 is the third best in the competition), and thus Shakib-al-Hasan has been left out, but when Williamson returns they will have to drop one of Rashid Khan, Warner or Bairstow – and that isn’t going to happen, realistically. Sunrisers may need to find more overs from someone like Vijay Shankar, who is far more of a batting all-rounder, if they are going to crowbar Williamson back into the line-up.

Next Week – DC (H)

Mumbai Indians 

This Week – Played 2, Won 2 (v CSK & v SRH), Lost 0

Mumbai got their season on track this week after an underwhelming start that saw them win one of their first three matches. It serves as particular cause for encouragement that both victories came against strong teams in the top half of the points table: CSK at home and SRH away. 

Both MI’s wins this week were founded on the strength of their bowling attack – a reason for optimism for Rohit Sharma’s team after their early season was derailed by injuries and availability issues surrounding their quick bowlers – most notably Adam Milne and Lasith Malinga.

MI’s bowling performances were led by two IPL debutants – Jason Behrendorff against CSK and Alzarri Joseph against SRH. Behrendorff’s performance in particular, against a strong CSK top order was excellent – his early wickets derailed a middling chase and set MI on the way to a comfortable victory. Joseph’s performance – finishing with 6 for 12 – was clearly worth of Man of the Match and provides MI’s overseas pace bowling with enviable depth. However, it was arguably the performance of Rahul Chahar – who took 2 for 21 in his four overs and help choke SRH’s middle order that was arguably more significant. MI’s squad is without a frontline attacking wrist spinner, with Mayank Markande and Chahar competing for a spot in the team this season. Chahar’s excellent performance was very encouraging for MI. No team has bowled fewer spin overs than Mumbai this season and that is unlikely to change given their pace-strength, but additional spin firepower in the form of Chahar – if he were to continue his current form – would be a key piece of Mumbai’s puzzle.

The form of Yuvraj Singh – which cost him his place in the team against SRH, and Krunal Pandya –  who continues to struggle against the short ball, is a major problem for Mumbai. However, this week a return to form for Kieron Pollard – who blitzed 17 not out off 7 balls against CSK and 46 not out off 26 balls against SRH – was very important to arrest to problems facing the middle order. Mumbai have the second lowest balls per wicket in the middle overs of 19.2 but thanks to Pollard and Hardik Pandya – who has been in supreme hitting form – the second best run rate at the death of 11.21 runs per over. 

Next Week – v KXIP (H), v RR (H)

Delhi Capitals 

This Week – Played 3, Won 1 (v RCB), Lost 2 (v KXIP & v SRH)

A comfortable win and a comfortable defeat in low-scoring matches against RCB and SRH respectively were low-key results in what was a week undeniably defined by Delhi’s implosion against KXIP on Monday. With just 23 required off 21 balls, Delhi’s middle and lower order proceeded to lose seven wickets for eight runs to fall short of the target. It was the second time in three days that Delhi’s lower order had collapsed after doing so against KKR – only for Kagiso Rabada to rescue them in the Super Over. 

Delhi’s lower order collapses are likely a consequence of their extremely attacking approach in the death overs which has seen them attack a higher proportion of deliveries than any other team in the league; they also have a lower balls per wicket than any other team in the league. Their defeat against KXIP – a team who may well be a rival for a top four finish – was emblematic of a side who, although brilliantly talented, perhaps are short on experience and leadership in such situations. 

The complexities of the T20 format were laid bare in their defeat against SRH when on an admittedly tricky pitch they struggled to pace their innings correctly with Shreyas Iyer and Shikhar Dhawan getting stuck in the middle overs as Delhi limped to 129 for 8 from their 20 overs. Delhi’s top four is marked by the contrast between the aggression of Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant and the relative caution of Iyer and Dhawan. When the latter pair are batting together there is a concern that Delhi lack the firepower to keep pace with modern T20 batting. So far this season when they have batted together they have scored at just 7.19 runs per over.

Delhi’s week was improved by a win on Sunday against a struggling RCB. The management deserve credit for sticking with the same team despite the convincing defeat against SRH on Thursday and the players returned the favour with a solid performance. Rabada and Chris Morris are proving to be excellent attack leaders and are being well complimented by their Indian spinners. Even another late order collapse could not stop them chasing RCB’s below par total down. Away matches this week against KKR and SRH make for a tough upcoming week. 

Next Week – v KKR (A), v SRH (A)

Rajasthan Royals

This Week – Played 2, Won 1 (v RCB), Lost 1 (v KKR)

An important milestone for Ajinkya Rahane and co this week, as Rajasthan registered their first win of the season, coming out on top against RCB. Right now that isn’t saying much, but they appear to have doubled down on a strategy. Their batting has been cautious, both in the Powerplay and in the middle overs, which whilst not being the most thrilling tactic is, at the very least, a plan. The selection of Rahane and Steve Smith rather dictates this strategy, given that both are naturally more conservative players. It gives them stability, as shown in the scatter below; only Sunrisers Hyderabad lose wickets more rarely in the first six overs.

At the top of the order, Jos Buttler is still being tasked with the bulk of the Powerplay scoring – he has attacked 59% of deliveries he’s faced in that period, the most of any Rajasthan Royals batsman, considerably more than Rahane (41%) and Smith (43%). The idea is clearly for Buttler to go hard at the top, then lay foundations for exploding at the death, but whilst their scoring rate at the death is perfectly fine (9.9rpo), it’s not outrageous enough to make up for the go slow earlier.

Their issues with the ball are most obvious at the death as well. Their economy rate of 11.68rpo in the last five overs is comfortably the worst in the tournament. Whilst they do struggle to keep the runs down throughout the innings as a whole (they also have the second worst economy in the middle overs), it’s at the death where the damage has really been done.The performances of Ben Stokes (death economy of 12.25rpo) and Jaydev Unadkat (14.25rpo) have been disastrous, and have put pressure on Rahane to save his only reliable death bowler, Jofra Archer, for those last few overs. This limits his flexibility as a captain, and makes his struggle more understandable.

Next Week – CSK (H), MI (A)

Royal Challengers Bangalore 

This Week – Played 3, Won 0, Lost 3 (v RR, v KKR, v DC)

Another week without a win means RCB’s hopes of a top four finish are already in ruin. Typically it takes a minimum of seven wins to qualify for the Play Offs and RCB only have eight matches remaining. 

The concern for Bangalore is that they are losing due to both their batting and their bowling – rather than just one department letting them down.

Against RR and DC it was RCB’s batting – which on both occasions posted sub-par totals – that cost them the match. RCB did relatively well to make RR’s chase difficult but DC cruised to the target. In their second match of the week their batting fired to post a very challenging target of 206 for KKR and for the large majority of their defence their bowling kept a lid on KKR’s scoring rate only for one of the all-time great IPL innings by Andre Russell to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  

RCB’s problems are reflected in their confused selection with three different opening partnerships in the first six matches and a change from each match to the next except for one. 

RCB’s team balance has also been compromised by their insistence on selecting two overseas all rounders with Moeen Ali being joined by one of Colin de Grandhomme or Marcus Stoinis in every match so far this season. With AB de Villiers guaranteed a starting spot their insistence on two overseas players has restricted their choice regarding their fourth overseas player with RCB being forced to choose between the talented batsman Shimron Hetmyer and bowler Tim Southee. Given that RCB have two quality Indian all rounders in Pawan Negi – who belatedly got a game this week – and Washington Sundar – who is yet to play this season, they are arguably not making best use of their resources. 

CricViz Match Impact rankings underline the scale of RCB’s struggle this season. The only areas in which they are in the top four ranked teams is in Powerplay batting, batting against pace and spin bowling. They have been the poorest team in the league in terms of overall batting, bowling and fielding. 

Next Week – v KXIP (A)

CricViz Analysis: IPL Roundup – Week One

Patrick Noone, Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones pick out the key themes after an eventful first week of IPL 2019.

Chennai Super Kings

This Week – Played 3, Won 3 (v RCB, v DC & v RR)

The defending champions have got off to a perfect start as they chase a record fourth IPL triumph, with three wins from three including a demolition of RCB on the opening night and narrow eight-run victory over RR in their second home game. Chepauk Stadium could well turn into a fortress for CSK, as both matches that have been played there this season have been on slow, spinning pitches. With a spin attack of Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and potentially Mitchell Santner, few sides will be able to live with Chennai in those conditions.

CSK have taken more wickets with spinners (13) than any other team. While that is in part owing to the fact that they have bowled a significantly higher percentage of deliveries with their slower bowlers than all other sides, it should also be noted that their spinners are conceding just 6.41 runs per over, while the next most miserly collection of twirlers is that of Sunrisers Hyderabad, who have conceded 7.45 runs per over.

That said, it has not just been the spinners upon which Chennai’s early success has been built upon. Right-arm seamer Deepak Chahar has bowled unchanged from the start of the innings in each of Chennai’s three matches, picking up all three of his wickets in the Powerplay overs and recording an economy rate of 4.33. Since Chahar’s IPL debut in 2016, only Umesh Yadav and Mitchell McClenaghan have taken more wickets in the first six overs than him and his consistent threat has been a key reason behind Chennai’s Powerplay economy rate of 6.72, the second best in the competition behind Sunrisers Hyderabad (6.22).

With the bat, Chennai were not hugely tested in their first two matches, chasing down 71 and 148 against RCB and Delhi, respectively, but showed the depth they possess in their narrow win against the Royals on Sunday. MS Dhoni’s side prefer to chase – they’ve chosen to field first on each of the last six occasions they’ve won the toss – but were asked to bat first against Rajasthan. Despite wobbling to 88 for 4, the captain himself dragged them to 175-5 with an unbeaten 75 off 46 balls before the bowling attack overcame the late night dew to restrict the Royals to 167-8. All appears well in the Chennai camp and the ominous sign for the other teams is that you sense that there is plenty more to come from them.

Next Week – v MI (A), v KXIP (H)

Sunrisers Hyderabad

This Week – Played 3, Won 2 (v RCB & v RR), Lost 1 (v KKR)

A remarkable turnaround. Last year, Sunrisers were the bowling kings, picking an XI skewed heavily towards limiting the opposition batsmen and keeping their games low-scoring and tense – so far this year, it’s been the opposite.

Sunrisers are comfortably the fastest scorers in the competition, the opening partnership of Jonny Bairstow and David Warner looking like it may become a force to be reckoned with. Three matches in, they are yet to lose a wicket in the Powerplay and have dominated in that period, scoring at a phenomenal 10.11rpo. Their overall scoring rate so far is 10.09rpo, comfortably higher than any previous season. It will most likely fall, but it throws into sharp relief quite how differently they are playing compared to last year.

However, that is true of their bowling as well. They are currently recording their worst ever strike rate for a season, and their second worst economy rate. It’s fair to acknowledge this as a consequence of their shift in strategy – the added firepower with the bat has come at the expense of the bowling, but it is still concerning for Sunrisers that individual bowlers haven’t been able to stand up. In particular, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a worry. Previously considered an elite T20 bowler, banging out length at the top before nailing yorkers at the death, Bhuvneshwar’s form has gradually deteriorated – particularly at the end of the innings. Sunrisers will be able to cope with the shift towards a batting-heavy balance, but they need the India star to find his best form, but as shown below, he’s currently in a rut.

Nothing typifies this switch in strategy more than SRH’s selection of overseas players. Against Rajasthan Royals on Friday SRH opted for three overseas batsmen for the first time in their history, leaving out Shakib Al Hasan. The Bangladesh all-rounder, solid with the bat and extremely canny with the ball, has been symbolic of SRH’s approach in the last two seasons. Leaving him out was a significant move that represented SRH’s move towards a more batting-heavy strategy.

Next Week: v DC (A), v MI (A)

Kolkata Knight Riders

This Week – Played 3, Won 2 (v SRH & v KXIP), Lost 1 (v DC)

After two wins from two, Kolkata Knight Riders took their first mis-step at the Feroz Shah Kotla where they lost a Super Over against Delhi Capitals. Sunil Narine’s injury meant that they were forced to shuffle the deck and curiously opted to not bring in one of their overseas options – Carlos Brathwaite, Harry Gurney or Joe Denly could all have played – instead choosing to open the batting with Nikhil Naik and fielding only three overseas players. Naik scored just 7 off 16 and wasted his team’s review as the gamble didn’t pay off; a rethink is surely needed if Narine continues to be absent from the XI.

KKR’s first three matches have been defined by the performances of one man: Andre Russell. The Jamaican all-rounder was Player of the Match in the Knight Riders’ first two matches, smashing 49* off 19 balls and 48 off 17 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab, respectively to get his side over the line on both occasions. Russell followed those innings up with a 28-ball 62 that propelled KKR from 61-5 to an eventual score of 185-8 against Delhi Capitals, before he was bowled by Kagiso Rabada in what proved to be the pivotal moment of the Super Over. In a lineup as packed with batting talent as KKR’s is, having a player like Russell coming in down the order is an absurd luxury and one that means that bowling attacks can never settle against the men in purple.

If there has been one area of slight concern for KKR in the first three matches it’s the lack of potency from their much vaunted spin attack. Sunil Narine looked out of sorts in the two matches he played, before missing the Delhi defeat with injury, while Kuldeep Yadav went wicketless in his first two matches. Only Piyush Chawla has registered an economy rate below 9 runs-per-over and a dot ball percentage above 30%. The pitches at Eden Gardens have so far been good for batting so it’s perhaps something that KKR are going to have to live with, knowing they can rely on their batting lineup to score more runs than the opposition. It’s a tactic that has broadly worked up until this point but it remains to be seen if it can be sustained across a 14-match season.

Next Week – v RCB (A), v RR (A)

Delhi Capitals

This Week – Played 3, Won 2 (v MI & v KKR), Lost 1 (v CSK)

With two wins from three matches Delhi are well-placed despite poor availability in their first week and obvious confusion surrounding their strongest team.

Delhi had three very different results in their first week: a convincing win away against MI when Rishabh Pant powered them to a huge total, an underwhelming defeat at home against CSK where their middle order subsided against the spinners; before a thrilling win at home against KKR in a topsy-turvy match where Delhi twice squandered positions of strength before sneaking home in the Super Over.

Delhi’s week was defined by their Indian batting core. Against MI, Pant powered them to a match-winning score while against KKR, Prithvi Shaw marshalled a steep run chase. On the one occasion when their Indian batting flopped – against CSK, they finished with an under-par total and lost the game.

DC’s first three matches have also been marked by clear uncertainty surrounding the make-up of their team but as the week has progressed they have moved towards a more well-rounded side.

The absence of Chris Morris – who lends precious balance – from the first two matches, complicated their selection with the management using Keemo Paul as an overseas all rounder and juggling their Indian all rounders Axar Patel, Rahul Tewatia and Hanuma Vihari in an effort to maintain batting depth while not compromising the bowling.

More surprising was the absence of Sandeep Lamichhane from the starting XI against MI and CSK. Lamichhane has been a force in the major leagues across the last 12 months and many assumed he would be a certain starter for DC. He was finally selected against KKR and made an immediate impact. Lamichhane’s selection against KKR meant DC fielded what looks to be their strongest overseas players for the first time with Colin Ingram, Morris and Kagiso Rabada completing the quartet.

Ahead of the season DC’s Indian pace bowling was the major area of concern but so far Ishant Sharma and Harshal Patel have fulfilled the role well.

In DC’s only defeat of the week against CSK they curiously only selected three overseas players and made the bold decision of opting to bat first on an unfamiliar home pitch – something that captain Shreyas Iyer has since admitted was a mistake.

Delhi have played two matches at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium and the early signs are that the pitch will benefit the spinners, who recorded notably better figures in both matches. This should suit Delhi who have an all Indian top four, accustomed to playing spin, and plenty of spin options (Lamichhane, Mishra, Tewatia, Axar). They should seek to exploit this advantage as the season progresses.

Next Week: v KXIP (A), v SRH (H), v RCB (A)

Kings XI Punjab

This Week – Played 3, Won 2 (v MI & v RR), Lost 1 (v KKR)

With two wins from their opening three matches, Kings XI will be pleased. The controversy surrounding their captain may have reduced a bit of goodwill they may have received, but Kings XI have started more confidently than most had expected. A defeat at the hands of a Russell-inspired-KKR can be brushed aside, with their wins against Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals far more encouraging.

When batting, Kings XI have been fairly cautious in the Powerplay overs, scoring at just 6.72rpo in that period (the second slowest) and attacking just 35% of deliveries (the lowest percentage) – the lull whilst Chris Gayle winds up and gets his eye in, perhaps. However, just like the big West Indian, they soon catch up. In the middle overs, only the turbo-charged Sunrisers Hyderabad have outscored KXIP, and at the death they have only been outdone by KKR.

With the ball, they have struggled. They have the second highest economy rate (9.49rpo) of all the teams involved. Specifically, they have found the Powerplay a real nightmare, conceding runs at 10.24rpo (the worst of any team) and taking a wicket every 36.3 deliveries (the second worst of any team). Encouragingly, Indian seamer Mohammed Shami – who hasn’t historically been the most reliable T20 bowler – has stepped up and been very economical, going for just 7.6rpo. At the other end of the scale is Sam Curran, who bowled two overs in his first game, went for 31 runs, and hasn’t played since. The good early form of Hardus Viljoen – and the confidence of the coaches to immediately remove Curran from the line of fire – has meant that Kings XI have limited the damage, but they are still vulnerable.

In the middle they have tended to pull things back with their spinners, but as it stands they are winning games with their batting, not with their bowling.

Next Week: v DC (H), v CSK (A)

Mumbai Indians

This Week – Played 3, Won 1 (v RCB), Lost 2 (v DC, v KXIP)

Mumbai Indians have established a reputation for slow starts in recent IPL seasons and this year looks no different. With one win from three matches and matches against CSK and SRH coming up this week MI are already on the back foot this season.

MI’s campaign was derailed before it had even begun when Adam Milne was ruled out of the season with an ankle injury and Lasith Malinga was declared unavailable for the first six matches. With Jason Behrendorff absent with Australia’s ODI squad Mumbai’s overseas bowling – an area they have historically liked to have well-stocked – was severely depleted with only Mitchell McClenaghan available for their opening fixture.

The weakness of their bowling was exposed in their first match when they lost control of Delhi Capitals and Pant in particular. The decision to select 19 year-old Rasikh Salam ahead of the more experienced Barinder Sran was questionable, given the weakened bowling attack – with Ben Cutting filling the fourth overseas spot. Since then they have reinforced the attack with Malinga who has been made available sooner than expected.

Batting wasn’t the problem in their defeat against Delhi but the decision to select Yuvraj Singh left the very talented Ishan Kishan – who played every match last season on the bench. Yuvraj opened his campaign with a fifty and played an exciting cameo against RCB but whether he – or Suryakumar Yadav – should be keeping Kishan out of the team is highly questionable based on recent form.

Those questions have only intensified as a result of MI’s performances against RCB and KXIP where middle over collapses left them needing to play catch-up in the death overs. Fortunately a brilliant cameo from Hardik Pandya against RCB elevated MI to an above-par total which they defended thanks to the brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah and the spin duo of Krunal Pandya and Mayank Markande who went for just 7.28 runs per over in a high scoring match. However, against KXIP more fireworks from Hardik couldn’t elevate MI to a competitive total and KXIP cruised home. Only RCB (14.7) has a worse balls per dismissal in the middle overs this season than MI (18.0) who are throwing away good starts provided by Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma at the top of the order: only SRH (10.11 RPO) have scored faster in the first six overs than MI (8.88 RPO).

Kieron Pollard had a brilliant PSL, averaging 28 at a run rate of 10.39 but his IPL form is also a growing problem for MI – since the start of last season he is averaging 16 at a run rate of 7.78. Krunal Pandya is also exhibiting major problems against the short ball. MI need these two – the engine room of their batting – to rediscover form.

The bowling is not free from concerns either though. So far the only MI bowler with a negative True Economy Rate is Bumrah. Hardik’s bowling in particular has been a major problem.

Next Week: v CSK (H), v SRH (A)

Rajasthan Royals

This Week – Played 3, Lost 3 (v KXIP, SRH, CSK)

A disappointing start to the campaign for Rajasthan Royals, losing all of their first three matches and sitting stranded at the bottom of the ladder. Coverage of them may have been dominated by the Buttler-Ashwin debacle, but there are far deeper causes for concern if you’re a fan of the team from Jaipur.

Rajasthan’s bowling has been a clear weak area. They have the second highest economy rate in the competition, and the highest economy in the middle overs – that lack of control has been a weight on their progress. Part of the reason for them struggling particularly in this period is that their star bowler – Jofra Archer – has been used almost exclusively at the top and tail of the innings, meaning that from the end of the Powerplay until the death, the Royals are relying on their weaker performers. Equally, with 26% of their overs from spin, they have relied on their seamers more than any other side barring Mumbai – so far, RR’s bowling has been lacking in both quality and variety.

With a player like Jos Buttler opening the batting, it’s no surprise that the Royals perform well with the bat in the Powerplay, the third fastest scorers going at 8rpo. In the middle overs, Rajasthan have been significantly more cautious, playing 17% false shots (the third lowest) and losing a wicket every 54 balls, the joint highest. As a result, they compensate for this by going harder in the last five overs – they attack 84.7% of deliveries at the death, more than all bar Delhi. Their strategy is to explode out of the blocks, consolidate, then go hard again. The issue is that with players like Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith cemented in that top-order, they are lacking the firepower to execute this strategy effectively; just 27% of their attacking shots this season have brought a boundary, the second lowest of any team. It may not be working so far, but they do have a plan – if they want to execute it more effectively, they could add extra firepower by replacing Smith with his compatriot Ashton Turner, given the latter scores at 10.62rpo with his attacking strokes compared to Smith’s 9.49rpo. Trust in their strategy, but give themselves a better chance of getting it right.

Aside from selection, what compounds the poor start for Rajasthan is that the three losses have come after winning three tosses – the game was there for them to dictate, and they couldn’t make it count. If they continue to get that sort of fortune falling their way, they simply have to do better.

Next Week: v CSK (H), v MI (A)

Royal Challengers Bangalore

This Week – Played 3, Lost 3 (v CSK, v MI, v SRH)

RCB’s season has got off to a terrible start. A narrow defeat at home against MI has been sandwiched between two thrashings – firstly they were bowled out for 70 by CSK on a spin-friendly pitch in Chepauk and then they were pummelled for 231 by SRH on a flat pitch in Hyderabad. The contrasting nature of RCB’s defeats is indicative of their problems with bat and ball. Only a week into the season and RCB’s Play Off hopes already look in serious danger.

Against CSK, RCB were unfortunate to lose the toss and be put into bat on a devilish pitch. However, that said their team selection betrayed a major failure to read conditions with RCB opting for just two spinners compared to CSK’s four and that mis-reading of conditions translated into their batting which was slow to adapt and subsided far too easily.

RCB challenged MI in an epic match at home on Wednesday but their performance was heavily dependent on Yuzvendra Chahal, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – an all-too familiar reliance on their best three players.

That lack of strength in depth was cruelly exposed against SRH who demolished RCB’s weak bowling attack for 231; a total which proved far too many for RCB who collapsed in their effort to chase it down.

RCB’s squad has clear flaws – most notably shallow batting stocks and a collection of average, but not exceptional, bowlers. However, so far this season they have not helped themselves with their team selection. Picking two overseas all rounders – Moeen Ali and Colin de Grandhomme – has betrayed a lack of faith in their batting and their bowling but hasn’t done enough to address either discipline. With Nathan Coulter-Nile soon to be available slotting him into the bowling attack should make a difference with Moeen likely to compete with Marcus Stoinis for the other overseas spot. Washington Sundar and Pawan Negi are two all round options not yet used by RCB which should help balance the team and allow them to adjust their overseas four. De Grandhomme has had a terrible start to the season, averaging 14 with the bat with a run rate of less than a run a ball and having taken no wickets with the ball at an economy rate of 10.75.

Shimron Hetmyer has made a very quiet start to his IPL career but he is undoubtedly a talent that deserves patience.

Next Week: v RR (H), v KKR (H), v DC (H)

Ben Jones, Patrick Noone and Freddie Wilde are CricViz analysts.