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Stats Analysis

IPL trends - Close contests, 200-plus totals, and home disadvantage

Also, there may be a reason why spinners are seeing more success this season

Shiva Jayaraman
There have been 16 200-plus totals scored already in this IPL  •  Associated Press

There have been 16 200-plus totals scored already in this IPL  •  Associated Press

As IPL 2023 moves beyond the half-way mark of the league stage, we look at four major trends that have stood out this season.
The most closely fought season ever
This IPL has perhaps seen the most evenly balanced contests among all seasons. Out of 34 matches, only 16 have been completely one-sided: where either the chasing team has won by at least three wickets with an over or more to spare, or the team defending has won by more than 15 runs. In terms of the percentage of such one-sided results, this season ranks the joint lowest at 45.7%.
As many as 11 games this season have finished either with the chasing team falling short by fewer than 10 runs or winning by no more than one ball to spare. Almost one in three matches have been such 'close' finishes. Including wins by one wicket from previous seasons (there have been none so far this year with more than a ball remaining), no season has seen as many close games as the current one.
On average, teams have played out two close games for every three one-sided games this season. No season has provided fans with more bang for their buck than this year.
Number of 200-plus scores more than ever, but are strike-rates really going up?
There have been 16 200-plus totals scored in this IPL, only two short of the 18 scored in the entire season last year - the record for the most such totals in any season. Last year, there were 11 200-plus totals after 35 matches, so this season is likely to have more 200-plus totals than any of the previous seasons. There have also been 28 180-plus totals this season - also the most in any season of the league.
So have batters' strike-rates taken a similar leap compared to previous seasons? Data suggests that may not be really the case. On average, batters have struck at 141.8 in first innings this year, which is their highest strike-rate after 35 matches in any season of the IPL. But it's only marginally higher than the 2020 IPL, which had batters striking at 141.2 when batting first in the first 35 matches. Overall, including chases, batters have struck at 138.8 in the first 35 matches this year, which is just a fraction more than the previous highest of 138.7 at a similar stage, in 2018.
What explains the glut of 200-plus totals then? One possible answer is in the scheduling. With the home-and-away format coming back and 11 venues being used, it wasn't until the 20th game that a venue hosted its third match of the season. Ten of the 16 200-plus totals came in the first 19 matches.
No season has had to wait till the 20th match for any venue to host for the third time. Jaipur is yet to host its second game of the season. Only 14 of the 35 matches so far have been played on grounds that had already hosted two matches - the lowest number of such matches in any season of the IPL. Last year, this number was 27.
A comparison of run rates across seasons reveals that this season isn't extraordinarily different from previous ones. In fact, three other seasons rank higher in terms of run rates on used pitches, though only marginally so.
The first half of this IPL has been played on fresher venues than all the previous seasons.
Impact Player rule gives spin a boost
Spinner have taken 177 wickets this year, by far the most they have taken after 35 games in any season. They've bowled an average of 48.2 balls - little more than eight overs - per innings. This too is their highest in any season, but they aren't bowling a lot more than they've done in earlier seasons. Their previous highest was only a shade lower at 47.6 balls per innings in 2019. That was also the last time that the IPL was played in the home-and-away format. The year before that in 2018, they bowled 46.5 balls per innings on an average.
So why are spinners taking more wickets this year?
The Impact Player rule has allowed teams to play an extra spinner of quality, who otherwise wouldn't have made the XI. Kolkata Knight Riders play Suyash Sharma, swapping him for Venkatesh Iyer, who otherwise would have filled in as the sixth bowler. Lucknow Super Giants have used Amit Mishra. Rajasthan Royals also brought in Adam Zampa against Chennai Super Kings as their third spinner. He is currently seventh in the ICC rankings for T20 bowlers. These would have been the 'easy' overs for opposition to capitalise on but for the Impact Player rule.
This increase in quality reflects in spinners' combined strike-rate this season. They have taken a wicket every 19.1 balls. This is the first IPL season in which their strike rate has been below 20 after 35 matches.
Good tosses to lose, and the home disadvantage
In previous seasons, teams that chased had a major advantage with dew around at night. It was a given that teams would elect to field first on winning the toss. They continue to do that in this season as well. In 31 out of the 35 games, teams have chosen to field.
However, chasing teams have won only 15 of the 35 games so far. Their win percentage of 42.8 is the third lowest among the 16 seasons of the IPL. Hence, results have not been impacted by the toss as much as they have in previous years.
Winning the toss should hand home teams a massive advantage, in theory: they get the best of the conditions tailor-made to suit their team. However, home teams have not been able to capitalise on winning the toss: in 16 of the 17 matches when home teams have won the toss, they have chased, and won only six matches.
Overall, the win percentage of 42.9% for home teams this season is the joint lowest after 35 games of the 12 seasons played entirely in India.

Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo @shiva_cricinfo