Matches (14)
IPL (3)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
Charlotte Edwards (1)
T20I Tri-Series (1)

Fleming on the dew factor: 'At no stage did CSK feel comfortable'

Coach says he is proud of how long they were able to stay in the game in conditions that actively favoured the chasing team

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
It's the 19th over of the chase. Lucknow Super Giants need 34. The ball was reduced to a bar of soap. Chennai Super Kings knew it was a massive gamble bowling Shivam Dube's medium pace and yet couldn't have done anything different as they took on the punishing task of defending a total in the face of heavy dew.
Until he came on, Dube had averaged less than one over per game in his 25-match IPL career across three seasons and two teams. He knew his cutters wouldn't work, because the ball was skidding through, so he went yorker length and ended up bowling into Evin Lewis' hitting arc. The West Indies batter used the depth of the crease superbly to convert really full deliveries into half-volleys as he teed off, raising a 23-ball half-century to help LSG secure their first win.
The Super Kings still had a combined five overs left from Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja but head coach Stephen Fleming reasoned that dew made the contest lopsided and completely took their spinners out of play.
"It's pretty hard fielding second at the moment."
Stephen Fleming, CSK coach
"If you looked earlier on, spinning options were taken out of play," Fleming said at the post-match press conference. "Because of the wetness, they played well. So, it was very hard for one: to grip the ball for a spinner and two: to be effective. Early on, we were one over short, but they played well.
"We always knew we had to pick an over somewhere. We were hoping to be able to create enough of a run rate towards the end that we could squeeze someone in. Whether that was another spinner or a medium pacer, the decision was made in the middle to use Dube and they countered it well. We always knew that one over was going to be pivotal. I think they did as well."
With the bat, it was another innings very unlike the Super Kings. They used to be the consolidate-early-build base-accelerate team but have now got enough resources to start hitting out from ball one. For all their batting prowess though, Fleming knew 210 was just "about par in conditions that at the moment very much favour the team batting second".
"We did well to get to 210, but we were always realistic that it was going to get harder as the night went on. We worked very hard to stay in the game. Defensively, I thought we were great. After 10 overs, we knuckled down and were fantastic to stay in the game. It's pretty hard fielding second at the moment.
"We knew we had to be really accurate. At no stage did we feel comfortable. And that showed in our fielding as well, the conditions were really wet. The guys hung in there defensively very well, proud of the effort."
Much of CSK's tactics over the years, especially at home, where they haven't played since 2018, have revolved around spinners applying the choke in the middle. But injuries to key players have forced them to look for a plan B.
Deepak Chahar is recovering from a quadricep tear that could take several weeks to heal. Chris Jordan is injured, as is Adam Milne. The team handed a debut to Mukesh Choudhary and the 25-year-old left-arm seamer bowled with the new ball alongside Tushar Deshpande, who is also relatively inexperienced at the IPL level.
Choudhary, Maharashtra's highest wicket-taker, was recommended by Ruturaj Gaikwad, his state captain, following an excellent Vijay Hazare Trophy where he took 10 wickets in five games. A bowler capable of hitting the deck hard and nipping it back into the left-hander, Choudhary had the unenviable task of bowling the final over with nine to defend. Ayush Badoni needed all of three balls to finish the game off, with Choudhary's figures on debut reading 3.3-0-39-0.
"I think we've got some young guys in there," Fleming said. "Mukesh was playing for the first time, Deshpande has played before. I thought it was really tough. You can't appreciate how wet that ball is, and the outfield is. It's difficult to get any aggressive play. I think we were bowling defensively from about 10 overs onwards. I thought they hung in really well and started really well in tough conditions."
Would he have held back one over of Dwayne Bravo at the end, while bowling Dube or one of the spinners for another over in the middle?
"It's hypothetical," Fleming thundered. "You go back and do 20-30 of these scenarios. After the spinners were ineffective, we knew we had a hole. We did very well to push it as far as we could. I'm not one to dissect the game like that. I'll back the decision-makers in the middle, who did the best job they could."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo