Match Analysis

The (un)dew advantage: what choice do teams batting first have?

They will invariably be looking to put on massive totals - like Kings tonight, it might lead to their downfall, but it also might be their only chance

That dew has had an exaggerated impact on IPL 2022 is clear not just from the results so far - chasing teams have won seven of the first eight games - but also from how the players and coaches have spoken about it.
"We're going to bowl first," Shreyas Iyer, the Kolkata Knight Riders captain, said at the toss on Friday, "and the reason is obviously the swimming pool in the evening, which we'll see."
Just under 24 hours before that, Moeen Ali had worn a haunted look while being interviewed by host broadcaster Star Sports between innings. "It's going to be difficult because of the dew and they [Lucknow Super Giants] have a brilliant batting line-up," he said. "We are going to have to bowl well." These were the words of a man whose team, Chennai Super Kings, had just scored 210.
Super Kings duly lost that game. It was the third time the 200-mark had been breached by a team batting first this season, and the second time it had been chased down.
Punjab Kings had chased down 206 against Royal Challengers Bangalore on the second day of the tournament, and had done so with an entire over to spare. You can understand, then, why they batted the way they did when Knight Riders sent them in on Friday.
It's a strategy that can look spectacular when it comes off, and for a while it looked like it might, particularly when Bhanuka Rajapaksa clattered Shivam Mavi for 4, 6, 6, 6 in the fourth over of the match.
It can also bring about flurries of wickets, and cause teams to be bowled out inside 20 overs. This was Kings' eventual fate on Friday, as they folded for 137 with ten balls of their innings unused.
Teams batting first know, of course, that they risk being bowled out for 135 if they set their sights on 220. But Kings still chose that approach. So did Knight Riders two days ago; they went just as hard and collapsed just as spectacularly against Royal Challengers.
That these teams chose this approach over a more conservative one that might have brought them 170 at best or 150 at worst should tell you all you need to know about their assessment of the conditions. They didn't think they could win with 150 or 170. As the ESPNcricinfo columnist Kartikeya Date might put it, they chose competitiveness over respectability.
It didn't come off for Punjab on Friday, just as it didn't come off for Knight Riders on Wednesday. But equally, it came off for Super Kings on Thursday, but it didn't matter; they still lost, their bowlers powerless to defend 210 in another second-innings swimming pool.
It's too early to predict if the rest of the season will follow the same pattern, but it's hard to see it change too much, given that the same four venues will host all of the league phase, and that three of them experience the coastal humidity of Mumbai.
The dew probably won't go away. At least some of the teams will continue setting their sights on mammoth first-innings totals in a bid to overcome the disadvantage of losing the toss. It will come off sometimes, it won't come off at other times, but it will probably remain their only way to give themselves a chance.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo