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Tactics Board: Rashid vs Royals batters, the powerplay approach, and the toss impact

Where the IPL 2022 final between Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals could be won or lost

Rajasthan Royals have made it to their first IPL final since 2008  •  BCCI

Rajasthan Royals have made it to their first IPL final since 2008  •  BCCI

And then there were two. On Sunday, Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals will face off in Ahmedabad in the final of IPL 2022. While Titans have made it to the final in their maiden season, this is the first time since 2008 that Royals are contesting for the title. Titans hold the edge, having beaten Royals on both occasions they have met this season.
Titans have benefitted from the presence of allrounders in their squad, while Royals have gone with a six-batter-five-bowler strategy throughout the tournament. Still, bowling remains the stronger suit for both sides. So who will come out on top? Here's a look at some of the factors that could play a key role in the final.
The Rashid effect
Rashid Khan's presence ensures the opposition teams strategise differently. Sometimes scoring at just a run a ball against him without losing a wicket is seen as an above-par performance for the batting team. So far, Rashid has been involved in five finals across his T20 career. He has taken just two wickets in them but also conceded only 5.27 runs per over.
This season Royals have taken the Rashid threat extremely seriously. He was wicketless in the two games he played against them but gave away only 39 runs from eight overs. He conceded just one four and one six, that too to R Ashwin and James Neesham. It's highly likely that Royals adopt a similar approach in the final because every Royals batter has struggled against Rashid in T20s. Jos Buttler is yet to score a boundary against him, while Sanju Samson and Shimron Hetmyer have lost their wickets when they tried to attack him.
If Rashid's overs are almost out of the equation, Royals would have to take more risks against the likes of Hardik Pandya, Yash Dayal and Alzarri Joseph. The way these three bowl could be a huge factor in deciding the outcome of the match.
Will toss play a big role?
Since January 2021, Ahmedabad has hosted 18 T20s. Out of those, only twice has a team opted to bat after winning the toss. Overall, the chasing teams have won on 12 occasions. In the remaining six games, the team batting first scored in excess of 170. With slightly bigger boundaries and a possibility of dew setting in, whoever is batting first on Sunday will look to score at least 170, which should be the par score. Samson has been incredibly unlucky with the toss this season, losing 13 tosses from 16 games. However, he won an important toss in the Qualifier 2 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at this very venue. The last two IPL finals, though, have seen the team winning the toss going on to lose the match.
Vital powerplay
The powerplay in both innings is going to be one of the key phases of the final. With the conditions favouring bowlers early on, it is important that the batting team keeps wickets intact as both teams have excellent bowlers to exploit the conditions. Titans are the best team in the bowling powerplay, followed by Royals. Titans have taken 26 wickets at an average of 26.69 in the powerplay, while Royals have taken 24 wickets at 27.38. The new-ball spells from Trent Boult and Mohammed Shami will be crucial for both teams and It would be interesting to how the batters approach them.
Dominating the spinners
Royals and Titans have been the most dominant sides against spin in the tournament. While Royals have struck at 136.72, Titans have gone at 125.34. However, with three quality spinners on display across both teams, it will be interesting to see how the batters go against them. In the two matches that Titans and Royals have played against each other, Royals preferred playing out Rashid but Titans have dominated Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. Titans' batters scored 144 runs off 102 balls of spin against Royals while losing just three wickets. Eighty of those runs came in boundaries. In Royal's last two games, Chahal was wicketless and conceded 77 from his eight overs. Do Chahal and Ashwin have new tricks for Titans' batters?
How can Royals negate the Miller threat?
David Miller is having his best IPL season ever. He has scored 449 runs at an average of 64.14 and a strike rate of 141.19. Historically, Miller has been a pace hitter. Scoring against spin has not been his forte. However, since 2020, Miller averages 56.9 and strikes at 136.9 against spin. He also scores a boundary once every seven deliveries against spin. With a minimum of 450 balls, only Devon Conway has a better average and strike rate than Miller against spin.
So what are the plans Royals could use against him? From a pace-bowling perspective, since January 2020, when bowlers have pitched it short or short of good length, Miller has scored only at 127.7 and has been dismissed eight times. Against fuller deliveries, Miller has struck at 187. So the margin of error is very less when pacers try a yorker against him. Therefore, going short and short of good length could be the plan to control the flow of runs against Miller. Interestingly even against spinners, there is a similar trend. This IPL when spinners have bowled full, Miller has smashed 89 runs off 28 balls with ten sixes. That's a strike rate of 317.85. When they have pulled back their length, Miller goes only at 93.40, scoring 85 runs from 91 balls.
Miller has waited for the bad balls to despatch while respecting the good ones. But his record against Ashwin and Chahal is below par. He has been dismissed by Ashwin three times in 73 balls while conceding only 85 runs. Chahal too has dismissed him three times, in just 30 balls, but Miller has taken him for 52 runs. So if Royals bowlers can refrain from bowling in the arc, then there is a high chance that the ball does not go out of the park.

Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo