As the T20 format evolves, teams are trying different things to get an edge over opponents. Besides the match-ups, one of the things they have stressed a lot on this IPL is to keep going for shots or wickets in the middle-overs—whether it works or not—rather than wait for things to happen. This middle phase is the 10 overs, starting from the seventh over.
On Monday, on a batting pitch at the Brabourne stadium, Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) went ballistic. RR scored 114 between overs 7 to 17 thanks to Jos Buttler’s and Sanju Samson’s big hitting. It helped them post 217/5—this season’s highest total.
KKR scored 121 runs during that phase thanks to skipper Shreyas Iyer, Aaron Finch and Nitish Rana. It left them needing 40 runs from the last four overs. Only a brilliant 17th over by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, in which he took four wickets including a hat-trick, restricted KKR to 210 as RR won by seven runs.
KKR’s 121 was the second-highest score in the middle-overs. They also hold the record for most runs in that period—127 against Mumbai Indians when Pat Cummins smashed a 15-ball 56 not out. According to espncricinfo.com, KKR have scored 9.51 runs per over in the middle overs followed by Royal Challengers Bangalore (9.13), RR (8.73), Sunrisers Hyderabad (8.66), Lucknow Super Giants (8.66) and Delhi Capitals (8.36). KKR, RCB, LSG and DC are teams with deep batting line-ups, giving them the leeway for big-hitting.
It was only the second time this edition that both teams scored 100-plus runs in that period. The first time was during the Chennai Super Kings-RCB match. CSK scored 110 riding on the partnership between Robin Uthappa and Shivam Dube. RCB scored 104 runs but lost five wickets which undid their chase and led to a 23-run loss.
Thirteen 100-plus scores have been achieved in the middle overs this edition (until Monday’s RR/KKR game); 17 times, teams have scored between 85 and 99.
Having a ball
LSG, SRH and RCB have been the most successful bowling units in the middle overs. While table-toppers GT haven’t excelled here, they have still eked out wins. LSG haven’t conceded more than 89 runs in six matches, between overs six to 17. They have thrice restricted teams to less than 70, twice in their last three games. Their economy rate of 7.51 is the best among the teams in the middle overs. Barring a mid-innings collapse against RR, their batters have scored at a decent rate in most matches—scoring 100-plus twice. SRH conceded 105 in their first match but have kept it to below 90 runs in the middle phase in their last-five games, below 84 in their last four wins.
Their batters too have stepped it up after failing to complete an easy win against LSG. In the next match, despite chasing a modest target of 155 against CSK, they made sure they closed out the match early, winning with 2.2 overs to spare.
RCB have been the most successful in taking wickets in the middle overs. They took five or more wickets in three of their six matches, restricting teams to below 80 in four. It includes reeling in Delhi Capitals in their last match after David Warner had given them a flying start. DC made just 77/4 from overs 7 to 17. Earlier, RCB had restricted MI to 50/6 and KKR to 60/6 in that phase. Harshal Patel (six wickets) and Wanindu Hasaranga (nine wickets) have been their go-to bowlers in that phase.
In their first four matches, KKR restricted opponents to less than 65 and 46 twice each thanks to spinners Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy. In the last three matches though, their bowlers barring Narine have struggled—conceding 100-plus twice. Against RR, while others suffered, Narine went at just 5.25. At 5.03, Narine has the best economy rate this season.
MI though have struggled, conceding 100-plus runs twice and between 90 to 99 thrice. They could restrict a rival to below 80 only once—Punjab Kings (74). That was after Jasprit Bumrah’s yorker to dismiss the aggressive Liam Livingstone cheaply. In the last few matches, MI have used Bumrah in the middle-overs to check opponents and cover for their weak bowling. MI did score 108 during that phase but lost their way, losing by 12 runs.
CSK and PBKS sail in the same boat—both have conceded 100-plus twice. Barring Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo, none of the CSK bowlers have managed to keep it tight. For PBKS, barring leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, no bowler has restricted the opponents. According to espncricinfo.com, PBKS have the worst economy rate in the mid phase at 9.64 followed by MI (9.63), GT (8.95), RR (8.95) and CSK (8.73).
Wrist spinners have dominated the wickets column in the mid-overs (7 to 17), led by Chahal, who has 12 scalps, followed by Kuldeep Yadav (11 wickets), Hasaranga (9) and Chahar (7).
Though MI are struggling, their newcomer Tilak Varma is the top-scorer in the middle overs with 161 runs, as per espncricinfo.com. He is followed by Dube (154), Livingstone (151), Samson (150) and Tripathi (143)—all asked to tee off from the start.