Tactics board: SKY vs slow bowlers in Chennai; LSG's struggle against offspin

Here's a look at how Mumbai and LSG might look to sharpen their edge in the Eliminator in Chennai

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Ravi Bishnoi celebrates the dismissal of Rohit Sharma, Lucknow Super Giants vs Mumbai Indians, IPL 2023, Lucknow, May 16, 2023

Chennai should provide the Lucknow Super Giants slower bowlers ideal conditions  •  BCCI

These two teams have made it to the Eliminator in a remarkable effort after losing players to injuries. Mumbai Indians practically lost their bowling attack, Lucknow Super Giants their captain and main batter. It is a classic contest between a batting-heavy team and a bowling-heavy one. Mumbai have conceded runs and scored runs at a quicker pace than any other side. LSG are the third-best with the ball, but the third-worst with the bat. Here's a look at how the teams might look to sharpen their edge.

Make it an away match for Mumbai

Mumbai have progressed on the back of a flat home pitch despite a decimated bowling attack. They have needed the batting paradise of Wankhede to go extreme with the bat. With five wins at home, they hold the best home record and are one of the only three teams to have won more than they have lost at home this IPL. They have also been the worst in away matches.
If the matches leading into the playoffs are any indication, Chennai should provide the Lucknow Super Giants slower bowlers ideal conditions. Towards the end of the league stages, they stayed afloat thanks to their slower bowlers. They have Ravi Bishnoi, Krunal Pandya and K Gowtham with the option of adding Amit Mishra too.

Offspin to win

Since 2020, these are the strike-rates of Quinton de Kock, Nicholas Pooran, Kyle Mayers and Krunal Pandya against offspin: 118.23, 107.94, 101.26, 76.53. Mumbai are aware of this which is why they opened with the offspin of Tilak Varma in the match against LSG last year. That is why Hrithik Shokeen played in the match against LSG this year. It could mean that Kumar Kartikeya sits out. Varma also is an offspin option, but, coming back from injury, he was protected last match and was only going to bat as Impact Player.
Given de Kock's ordinary record against legspin and Piyush Chawla, it might not be a bad shout to play Mayers and ask Pooran to keep wicket.

Change the angle

Sandeep Sharma and Andre Russell started it this year but LSG's Yash Thakur and Mumbai's Chris Jordan have extensively bowled around the wicket to right-hand batters at the death. Thakur has bowled 18 such balls for 15 runs and five wickets, Jordan 12 balls for 18 runs and a wicket, and Akash Madhwal four balls for six runs and a wicket.
There is no reason for Thakur to not keep doing it, giving Cameron Green and Tim David an angle they haven't faced this year. Jordan and Madhwal won't be shy to check how Marcus Stoinis fares against it.

Win the toss and?

The first qualifier might put a spanner in the works for both teams. Mumbai have based their campaign on chasing. By that token, LSG want to deny them a chase. But then you watch Ravindra Jadeja and Maheesh Theekshana turn the ball a mile at high pace in the second innings, and you just wonder.
LSG, in particular, with their 5-1 record batting first will definitely consider batting first should they win the toss. Mumbai might have to back their batters in the chase and hope for more and earlier dew than in the Qualifier on Tuesday.

Surya, Chennai and slow bowlers

Speaking of the slowness in the surface, in eight innings in Chennai, Suryakumar Yadav has managed to strike at only 128 per 100 balls. Against spinners at this venue, he has gone at 107. For someone who relies a lot on runs behind square, a slow pitch and slow bowlers can be kryptonite, which perhaps shows in the numbers. In two matches in Lucknow and Chennai, the two slow pitches, this IPL, Suryakumar has faced 31 balls for 33 runs and has been out on both occasions. LSG will want to crowd him with lack of pace and force him to take on the fielders down the ground.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo