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Talking Points - Chennai Super Kings laid low by lack of power-play

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Super Kings may be top of the points table, but they have been the poorest performers with the bat in the Powerplay through the ongoing IPL season.

Counting the four lost against Mumbai, they have lost 24 wickets in 12 games within the first six overs, giving them an average of 19.20, more than seven runs worse than the next poorest team, Kolkata Knight Riders.

Every other team apart from those two average 40 or more in the Powerplay - Sunrisers Hyderabad, the best in that phase of the game, average 108.8, and even Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals, languishing at the bottom of the table, have averaged 41 and 46.75 respectively.

That's a function of the wickets lost, but Super Kings have also scored slowly early on, going at just 6.40 in the first six. The next slowest Powerplay run rate is Knight Riders' 7.71, while Sunrisers, again, are on top with 9.06.

Five times now, Super Kings have lost three or more wickets in the Powerplay. On two occasions earlier in the tournament, they were able to recover thanks to half-centuries by MS Dhoni in the middle order. Against Royal Challengers, Dhoni almost pulled off a heist - Super Kings were 32 for 4 after the Powerplay - but fell one run short.

They have 16 points and are on top of the table, which means they have gotten out of jail despite poor starts more often than not. On Friday, they didn't. Did it have to do with a certain MS Dhoni being absent?

Mitchell Santner turns up trumps

Mitchell Santner had played only three out of 11 games for Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2019 before taking the field against Mumbai Indians at home on Friday, but that was entirely due to team dynamics, and not a reflection on Santner's abilities.

With Ravindra Jadeja in the XI and a restriction on overseas players, Santner was forced to sit on the bench. When he did play, he ended up making a big impact. With Jadeja indisposed, he was drafted into the XI, and showed just how good he could be on a helpful Chepauk pitch, where the ball gripped and turned beautifully.

Stephen Fleming sure rates the left-arm spinner highly, and it's chiefly because of his restricting lines and lengths that Santner has been so successful - he had the best economy rate (6.88) among bowlers who had bowled at least 15 overs in the 2018-19 Super Smash, New Zealand's domestic 20-over competition. Much of that was played on pitches not ideal for spinners. Chepauk, well, is usually ideal for spinners, and on Friday night it certainly was. Santner joked after the Mumbai innings: "Wickets in NZ are more like the outfield hereā€¦"

Lines, and more importantly, lengths. Of his 24 deliveries - he finished with 4-0-13-2 - he pitched 14 on a length, six closer to the batsmen, three short of good-length and bowled just one full toss. Most of them were on or around off-stump and turned away beating the right-handers' edge beautifully. It made for stunning viewing and might have helped Santner, who won Super Kings a game with a last-ball six earlier in the tournament, bargain for a more regular spot going forward.

Super Kings underscore their middle-overs supremacy with the ball

Part of it has to do with playing a large chunk of their games this IPL on low-scoring pitches in Chennai, but Super Kings - back on their patch against Mumbai - showed, again, how well they apply the choke in the middle overs.

They have been the most miserly in the middle overs this season, giving up runs at only 6.73 per over. Sunrisers Hyderabad, with 7.37, have the second-best numbers, showing just how good Super Kings have been.

Santner was the best on view, of course, and Tahir and Harbhajan went for a few soon after the Powerplay ended, but Dwayne Bravo was excellent in overs 10 and 12, conceding just 12 runs, meaning Mumbai went from 45 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay to 121 for 3 when the 17th over started.

With inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman and Shamya Dasgupta