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Relentless CSK show the ideal way to go about setting a target

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Last updated on 17 Apr 2023 | 09:53 PM
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Relentless CSK show the ideal way to go about setting a target

On Monday, CSK reaped the rewards for following the golden ‘bat-first’ rule — always get as much as you can

Against a more complete, competent batting line-up, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) probably would have lost the clash at the Chinnaswamy on Monday which they ended up winning in the final over.

Chasing 227, RCB were first 141/2 and then, at a later stage, 191/4 in 16.4 overs, needing 36 off 20 balls. The home side had two batters who had already got their eye in (Karthik 18* off 9 and Shahbaz 12* off 9) and it really should have been a cakewalk from there, on a surface which was unrelenting when it came to punishing the bowlers.

Somehow, however, RCB lost. (cue ‘That’s RCB for you’ comments). 

But RCB’s batting aside, here’s why CSK won: unlike the sides that batted first in the three games that preceded theirs, they left no runs out in the middle.

227 was certainly within reach, but the stiff nature of the target meant that, despite the wicket being a batting paradise, the chasing side had little margin for error.

RCB blinked and well, that was that. 

***

There’s been plenty of discourse this season about how teams have consistently failed to maximize their totals while batting first; being content with par (or slightly above par) and then later regretting it.

RCB themselves were in the firing line not too long ago, in the aftermath of their one-wicket defeat against Lucknow, but over the weekend, we saw three instances of teams batting first paying the price for slowing down.

It started with Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) against the Punjab Kings. At 88/2 after 11 overs, LSG had the platform to go and get 180+ but following a bizarre, questionable 74 (56) from skipper Rahul, they finished with 159. The end result was a defeat, as Punjab knocked the target off in the final over.

20 extra runs would not have guaranteed victory but what was true was this: LSG did not get as many as they could have. Losing just two wickets after 14 overs and finishing with an eventual score of 159 is criminal in modern-day T20 cricket. 

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), on Sunday evening against Mumbai Indians (MI), fared much better than LSG but after being 135/4 in 14 overs, an inexplicable slowdown saw them amass just 50/2 off the next six and finish with 185/6 off their 20.

They, too, lost, and in all likelihood, they’d have lost even if they had scored 20-25 extra — Mumbai chased it down with 14 balls to spare — but if we were to ask the question if KKR’s batters gave their bowlers the best chance of defending a target at the Wankhede, the answer would be a straight no.

Gujarat Titans are a side unlike any other, because their supreme bowling attack enables them to defend even par (and sometimes below-par) scores, but Sunday night, even they paid the price for slowing down. 

At 88/2 after 10, they really should have gotten to a 190-ish score but finished with 177. This was owing to a fateful four-over period between the 10th and 14th over where they shockingly amassed just 19 runs, with both David Miller 10 (13) and Shubman Gill 6 (9) proving to be culprits.

It came back to bite them at the end as Rajasthan got over the line in the final over. You know a score is definitely under-par when GT’s bowling line-up fails to defend it.

We’ll let the MI-KKR contest pass because it was one-sided, but the chasing side slipped up multiple times in both the LSG-PBKS and GT-RR contests. And yet, they ended up getting home because of a peculiar reason: the team batting first did not post as much as they could and should have.

Had LSG posted 180, Punjab probably would have gone on to lose the contest by 15 runs. Likewise, 15-20 more runs to the GT total would have sealed RR’s fate when the visitors lost their fourth wicket in the 11th over for the addition of 55 runs. 

The inability of the side batting first to be ruthless directly aided chasing sides over the weekend.

Here’s where CSK, on Monday, were different.

Like LSG, KKR and GT, they were inserted into bat on a surface that screamed ‘chasing wicket’. However, unlike any of the other three sides, they never took their foot off the accelerator.

After starting the match on the backfoot — 25/1 in 4, thanks to a sublime first spell from Siraj — CSK landed their first punch in the fifth over of the game when Rahane and Conway took young Vyshak for 13 runs. 

Across the next 15 overs, they posted 188 runs, with remarkably only two of the fifteen yielding fewer than nine runs.

They batted with intent, they batted with purpose, and they batted like a team that knew they had to get as much as they possibly could — not only due to the surface but also because of their own bowling line-up which needed all the cushion it could get due to how inexperienced it was. 

“You want to start well and then alter whatever is there in your mind,” Dhoni said at the presentation.

“It was slightly tacky to start off. It's important to go through that and then look to accelerate. We kept it simple and tried to get as much as possible in the second half of the game.”

Monday’s clash also highlighted the difference between a score of 205-210 and a total of 225.

After a wobbly start, Maxwell and Faf obliterated the CSK bowlers to push the score to 141/2 after 12 overs but even then, RCB needed 86 off the remaining eight — a very doable but far from a simple task.

There was still a lot of work to be done, as opposed to the cakewalk the target would have been had it been in the 200 range. 25 extra runs really do make a difference, and RCB found out the same, as after playing about 3/4th of the chase perfectly, they stumbled in the fourth quarter. The trip eventually proved to be fatal.

In the words of Dhoni, “Whenever you score 220, the batsmen have to keep on hitting."

To rephrase that a little bit, ‘Whenever you are chasing an above-par total, there is very little margin for error.’

Over the weekend, PBKS and RR both got out of jail because their opponents’ inefficiency in the first innings gave them breathing space, but on Monday, CSK’s efforts with the bat ensured that RCB had no leeway whatsoever.

Against a more complete, competent batting line-up, CSK might have lost at the Chinnaswamy, but even then, it wouldn’t have been their fault.

LSG, KKR, GT and others, take note: this is how you accelerate while batting first.

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