<
>

Road to playoffs is paved by the bowlers

With the completion of the league stage of IPL 2019, ESPNcricinfo looks at how the teams stacked up in certain key facets and what were some of the clinching factors that differentiated the teams that qualified for the playoffs from the others.

'Batsmen win matches, bowlers win tournaments'

This quote originally by Azhar Mahmood seems to be the ideal strategy to make the playoffs in the IPL. Over the last few seasons the teams with better bowling units have made the playoffs and it is no different this year. The teams with the top four economy rates and averages have qualified for the playoffs.

Chennai Super Kings owe their success mainly to MS Dhoni and their bowlers. They have made best use of their home conditions and have four of their bowlers among the top 15 wicket-takers of the tournament, while none of their batsmen made it to the top 15 run-getters. Delhi Capitals have made the playoffs after six seasons and will credit their bowling as well for the same. The purple cap holder Kagiso Rabada at the death along with Ishant Sharma in the Powerplays have led the way for Capitals this season. Similarly, Mumbai Indians have also had their bowlers step up with five of them taking more than ten wickets each. With the likes of Rohit Sharma, Evin Lewis, Krunal Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav having a below-par season, their bowlers have made up strongly.

Although Rashid Khan and Bhuvneswar Kumar may have not been the force they were in previous seasons, Sunrisers Hyderabad still managed to keep it tight thanks to some smart bowling from Khaleel Ahmed. Kolkata Knight Riders finished at the bottom of the bowling pile while topping the strike rate and the 50-plus scores in the batting department.

Who won the various phases? - Batting

Powerplay

Sunrisers were the clear leaders this season. Led by David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, they lost a wicket only nine times in the Powerplay and averaged 87. In comparison, the worst team in the Powerplay with the bat was Super Kings, losing 26 wickets, averaging 20.38 and scoring at 6.21 runs per over. Mumbai, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab ensured they did not lose too many wickets at the top with a high average but were not able to score as quickly as they would have liked to.

Middle overs

Kings XI and Knight Riders top the charts in the middle overs. KL Rahul's role to bat through the innings and Andre Russell's exploits were influential in their teams doing well in this phase. While one of the key skills in this phase is to minimize the dot balls, Knight Riders have been found guilty of playing too many - 43% of their deliveries were dots, forcing Russell to make up towards the end. Mumbai find themselves at the bottom of the list in terms of averages in this phase, having slowed down on multiple occasions after a good start by losing a bunch of wickets. The case for Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard to play more balls in this phase is further enhanced through these numbers.

Death overs

The death overs have been dominated by the two most impactful players of the tournament - Hardik and Russell. Knight Riders and Mumbai lead this phase scoring at 11.19 and 10.40 runs per over, and averaging 27.37 and 22.65 respectively. Sunrisers, Royals and Capitals have been below par in this phase considering they are top-heavy sides with a lack of a proven finisher. Super Kings' record is comfortably way above the rest while batting first - thanks to Dhoni - as they lost only six wickets at the death, averaging 46.83 and scoring at 11.24 an over.

Who won the various phases - Bowling

Powerplay

One of the most important skills in a T20 match is to pick up wickets in the Powerplay and derail the opposition from achieving the par score. Super Kings have the best bowling average with 29.65 while going at 7.83 runs per over. Kings XI and Royal Challengers have been the worst, averaging 65.58 and 50.71, and taking only 12 and 14 wickets respectively in the Powerplay.

Middle overs

In the middle overs, where the spinners have come into play at most venues, this season the four playoff teams - Mumbai, Super Kings, Capitals, Sunrisers - have the best record. The reason could be attributed to the depth in the spin department they possess. Super Kings bowlers average 23.27 and have an economy rate of 6.52 in this phase, whereas Knight Riders have been at the other end of the spectrum with an average of 55.85 and an economy rate of 8.67.

Death overs

Another important phase in a game where the four playoff teams are once again the best. Super Kings conceded 8.10 runs per over while averaging 15.87 in this phase. At the bottom of the chart are once again Knight Riders who conceded 10.70 runs per over. Royals and Royal Challengers were close at 10.53 and 10.49. As per ESPNcricinfo logs, the team that bowled the most yorkers in the death was Capitals with 36; Royal Challengers bowled only seven, the least.

Which over has gone for most runs

Teams talk of various strategies to target certain bowlers. And the numbers back that. Naturally, the 20th, 19th and 18th overs have been the most expensive ones, with the teams scoring at 12.58, 10.17 and 9.13. On the other hand, the first and the second overs of the innings have been pretty low scoring, going for 6.16 and 7.39 runs on average, while the seventh and the eighth overs - just after the Powerplay - also yielded only 6.63 and 6.91 runs per over. With four of the first eight overs not yielding many runs, teams could look to change the tide in the coming years.

Which is the best fielding team?

Similar to the start of the tournament, the two weakest fielding sides on paper have been the best catching side. At the end of the league stage, Super Kings and Kings XI have the best conversion rate of catches - 87.80% and 84.50% respectively. Apart from being let down by their bowers Royal Challengers' performance in the field has also been a major hindrance. They dropped 25 out of the 74 chances - a conversion rate of just about 66%. In a tournament where one wicket could change the game, Royal Challengers have been found wanting. Virat Kohli and Yuzvendra Chahal have dropped five and three catches respectively. Rashid Khan, Jofra Archer, Kieron Pollard and Yusuf Pathan are the others with three dropped catches each. Hardik's all-round performance continued in the field as well, with 11 catches from as many attempts. Deepak Hooda was a close second, taking ten our of ten.