Can CSK do anything to fix their batting?
Chennai Super Kings were always going to struggle to fill the hole left by Suresh Raina's departure, but with Ambati Rayudu injured, this is a quick rundown of their batting resources after the match against Delhi Capitals.
- Shane Watson: Played just 16 games since the last IPL and has just one 15+ score this season
- M Vijay: A fringe player in the IPL since 2016; has struggled this season; of 44 balls faced, has been beaten 13 times and has defended or looked for a single 20 times
- Faf du Plessis: The only top-order player in form; scored 173 across first three games
- Ruturaj Gaikwad: Playing first IPL season; control percentage of just 54.54% in 11 balls faced so far
- Kedar Jadhav: Strike-rate of just 95.85 last season and 129.72 in IPL 2020
- MS Dhoni: Self-admittedly needs time to get back in form after 437 days without cricket
- Sam Curran: Showed promise with 18 off 6 against Mumbai Indians and 17 off 6 against Rajasthan Royals
- Ravindra Jadeja: Has underwhelmed with scores of 10, 1*, and 12
Luckily for CSK, Rayudu is expected for their next match, which means either Vijay or Gaikwad will be left out. If Vijay is dropped, Gaikwad could play in his preferred role of opener, with Rayudu at No. 3 and du Plessis at No. 4. Or Rayudu could open with Gaikwad coming in later. Dhoni pushing himself up is an option. There is also the option of sending in Curran or Jadeja as a pinch-hitter. Whichever way you slice it, Super Kings have serious problems with their batting.
Why did Delhi bowl out Axar in the first 10?
Shreyas Iyer brought on Axar Patel in the second over specifically to bowl to Watson. In eight previous innings, he had dismissed Watson five times and gone at just 6.63 runs an over. Also, left-arm spin tends to stifle Watson. The plan worked as Axar dismissed Watson in his second over.
Iyer also knew that Super Kings' only two left-hand batsmen were likely to come in later, so it made sense to bowl the left-arm spinner before that. Axar - who had gone for 14 off four overs in the game against Kings XI Punjab - varied his pace, lines and lengths, often bowling into the right-handers' pads and slowing it down while pulling the length back, giving the batsmen no pace to hit square. His four overs for 18 meant that when the inexperienced Avesh Khan came on for his second over, the asking-rate was already above 13, and Capitals still had five overs of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje for the last six.
What's going wrong for Jadeja?
Jadeja became the first spinner to go for 40+ runs in three consecutive IPL games after he went for 44 runs off his four overs. His statistics so far are in stark contrast to previous seasons, when he was one of the more economical spinners in the league. One reason is that the pitches have not suited him as much as the Chepauk pitch does. He has bowled similar lines and lengths to previous seasons, but balls that usually work for him have not. For example, he has bowled eight full balls this season for 23 runs, where pitching it right up is often his strength. His short-of-length balls have also not worked - they've gone at a strike-rate of 166.67. Jadeja has always struggled against left-hand batsmen, but this season he is going at 9.79 per over against right-handers too.
Jadeja has not been able to vary his pace as much as Axar has, and he has not cramped the batsmen for room as much. But another possible reason for his poor numbers is that since Super Kings do not have a fifth bowler, batsmen are targetting him. Dhoni does not like using Jadhav as a part-timer, which means Jadeja is being forced to complete his quota. Super Kings may look to play another bowler to ease some of the pressure on Jadeja, and there is also the option of playing Imran Tahir or Mitchell Santner over him, though that will mean having to drop one of the other overseas players. Jadeja tends to thrive when bowlers around him are taking wickets, so Tahir for Piyush Chawla is another possible switch.
Could Capitals have gone for it more with the bat?
Not a single six in the last 10 overs for #DelhiCapitals . If you lose only 3 wickets in 20 overs, you expect the total a lot closer to 200. Runs on the board but this total is not beyond #CSK reach. #CSKvDC #IPL2020— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) September 25, 2020
Though 175 proved more than enough in the end, at the innings break it felt like Capitals could have got 10-15 more runs considering they were 88 for 0 after the first 10. The key phase was the initial stages of Iyer and Rishabh Pant's partnership. They came together at 12.3 overs and between then and the 17th over, they scored 43 runs, at 9.21, not slow, but not as quick as you might hope given they still had Shimron Hetmyer and Marcus Stoinis to come. So did Iyer and Pant miss a trick by not going hard earlier? When you actually look at the shots attempted, the pair did try 11 aggressive strokes in that period - one every 2.5 balls - but they mistimed a lot of them, thanks to the pace variations from Deepak Chahar and Curran, who together bowled 18 of the 28 balls in that phase. Then, right at the death, Josh Hazlewood mixed the pace, and Curran bowled an outstanding 19th over - he nailed two yorkers, bowled two cutters and went wide and full for the other two balls. So Super Kings' bowlers deserve a lot of praise for restricting Capitals.
How did Capitals stifle Dhoni at the death?
Simple: Get their 140kph+ bowlers to dig it in short. Since 2018, Dhoni had struck at just 124.00 against short and short-of-length balls from right-arm quicks in the IPL. Half of the 12 balls Capitals bowled to him were short, and he got just five runs off them, eventually edging a slower bouncer from Rabada.
Iyer was impressive with his tactics through the second innings. He bowled Axar early, then brought on Amit Mishra to the inexperienced Gaikwad, shielded Avesh from the tough overs, and held Rabada and Nortje back to finish the job.
Is it time to stop winning the toss and choosing to field?
Every captain who has won the toss this season has chosen to field, but in seven games, the team batting first has won five times and tied once. This is a complete change from the past two seasons, in which captains who fielded first ended up on the winning side 57% of the time. It's still early to judge what exactly is causing this shift and whether it will continue, but one factor is that the first-innings scores have been high - the past four games have all had 170+ first-innings scores - which causes scoreboard pressure for the chasing team. It's not clear yet how much of an effect dew has in the second innings and whether the pitches slow down.
It should be noted that of the five games lost by the chasing side, three have featured Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings, both teams who haven't figure out their best batting line-up, so we may have to wait till strong batting teams such as Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab chase a few times before drawing conclusions.
Dustin Silgardo is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo