Rajasthan Royals and their 150-run fort
With a win in their last match against Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals extended their unbeaten record when defending targets of 163 or more, to 15 wins. In T20 cricket, only Northamptonshire are anywhere near that achievement, having won 13 games and not lost any when defending targets of 163 or more.
In fact, Royals have been the stand-out team in the IPL when defending average to high scores: in matches when they've batted first and scored 149 or more, they've won 16 times and lost only twice. (One game, against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2009, was tied, though Royals won the in the Super Over.) Their win-loss ratio of eight is the best in IPL, by far. The next-best is Chennai Super Kings' 2.6, largely due to helpful conditions at home: of their 26 such victories, 19 have been at Chepauk. Royals, though, have not relied on home advantage to build their reputation: they have won all seven away games in which they have set a target of 150 or more.
While some of Royals' success can be attributed to their batsmen setting up the games with huge scores, their bowlers have not let their team down either. Nine of the 16 wins have come when Royals have scored less than 180 runs in their innings. In these matches, the average score of the chasing teams has been 66 for 3 at the end of ten overs. That's left the opposition with more than half the total runs to be scored in the last ten, often with their best batsmen already dismissed. In as many as eight of the 16 wins, Royals have managed to take four or more wickets within 10 overs.
|Rajasthan Royals' score||Average 10-over score||No. of times 4 or more wkts were lost|
In fact, the two times when teams upstaged Royals in these chases, they did so with plenty of wickets to spare. In 2011, the first time Royals lost defending a 150-plus total, Kolkata Knight Riders beat them by nine wickets. Gautam Gambhir (75 off 44) and Jacques Kallis (80 off 65) put on an unbeaten 152-run partnership, thus snuffing out the challenge from the Royals bowlers. When Mumbai Indians beat Royals, in 2012, by ten wickets, Dwayne Smith (87 off 58) had an unbeaten opening partnership of 163 with Sachin Tendulkar (58 off 51). Between these two defeats, though, Royals had five wins when defending 150 or more.
In 2013, Royals have twice successfully defended targets of 150 or more with their mix of wicket-taking bowlers and defensive, wicket-to-wicket options. Against Delhi Daredevils they barely scraped through, winning by five runs, but they demolished Mumbai Indians after scoring 179, winning by 87 runs. Given that they themselves have struggled when faced with targets of 150 or more, losing 13 out of 20 such games, that might be the better option for oppositions teams when they take on Royals.
Shiva Jayaraman is sub-editor stats at ESPNcricinfo