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IPL 2019 mid-season review: where the teams stand and what they need to do

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Halfway through IPL 2019, how have teams fared? What are their biggest strengths, and what potential strategy changes can they employ to make up for their weaknesses? Here’s an analysis.

Note: All stats and numbers updated till Mumbai v RCB on April 15.

Chennai Super Kings: 14 points

Making the best use of home conditions, Super Kings have started the season at an all-time high, winning seven of their eight matches. Last year, their batsmen had to make up for the bowlers in batting-friendly conditions in Pune (their home games were moved out of Chennai). This season, it has been the bowlers that have made up for the batsmen in spin-friendly conditions at Chepauk, on a pitch that has been criticised by many including captain MS Dhoni. What has not changed is Super Kings having multiple match-winners, which has once again made the defending champions strong favourites in the title race.

Impact performers

  • MS Dhoni – 230 runs at an average of 76.66 and a strike rate of 127.07

  • Imran Tahir– 13 wickets at an economy rate of 5.76 and a strike rate of 13.8

  • Harbhajan Singh– 7 wickets at an economy rate of 5.12 and a strike rate of 13.7

  • Deepak Chahar– 10 wickets at an economy rate of 6.64 and a strike rate of 18.6

What can they improve?
Super Kings’ batting has the highest dot-ball percentage and the lowest balls per boundary figure in this IPL. They also have the lowest average (18.68) and the lowest run rate (6.22) in the Powerplay. Shane Watson has been weak in the first half and the team needs good starts from him.

Death bowling also remains a concern, with Super Kings having three of the top five most expensive death bowlers since IPL 2018.

Potential strategy change

Dhoni never likes to tinker with the playing XI. Still, Sam Billings for Watson might be something Super Kings could try out.

Availability: All overseas players are available

Delhi Capital: 10 points

A change in name has resulted in a change in their game. Capitals have made a sound start to the season, and are well-placed to claim a spot in the playoffs. A vibrant and young squad, consistency in selection and team effort are the ingredients that let them recover from a shaky first few matches. This is also a team of varied match-winners, and one of their big strengths has been death bowling. It’s the best in the competition so far, with 25 wickets at the death at an economy rate of 8.43 and an average of 9.56.

Impact performers

  • Kagiso Rabada – 17 wickets at an economy rate of 7.70 and a strike rate of 10.9

  • Shreyas Iyer – 266 runs at an average of 33.25 and a strike rate of 120.36

What can they improve?
While batting in the Powerplay, they have lost 12 wickets at an average of 31.58 – the second lowest in the league. Shikhar Dhawan couldn’t get going at the start of the season, before hitting 97* against Kolkata Knight Riders, but he and Prithvi Shaw will have to provide more consistent and rapid starts at the business end of IPL 2019.

Potential strategy change
Who among Axar Patel, Rahul Tewatia and Amit Mishra are likely to play the high-pressure games is something the team should look to solve in the next six games.

Availability: All overseas players are available.

Mumbai Indians: 10 points

Mumbai have won five of their first eight games, a change from their tag of being perennial slow starters. And this is despite stars like Rohit Sharma and Krunal Pandya having not yet made a big impact, and the team having scored well below par on at least three occasions.

Impact performers

  • Kieron Pollard – 185 runs at an average of 37.00 and a strike rate of 177.88

  • Hardik Pandya– 186 runs at an average of 46.50 and a strike rate of 191.75

  • Jasprit Bumrah – 8 wickets at an economy rate of 6.81 and a strike rate of 23.0

What can they improve?
Mumbai’s batting average in the middle overs (7-16) is just 23, and they have lost 27 wickets in that period – the most for any team in the league.

The bowling of the Pandya brothers has also been below par so far: Hardik has gone at 9.91 runs per over, while Krunal has taken just five wickets while conceding runs at 8.28 per over.

Potential strategy change
Perhaps Hardik and Pollard could be split to ensure that there is a run rate acceleration in the middle overs too. Krunal, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav can float according to the situation.

Another possible change is getting Bumrah to bowl more in the Powerplay. Right now the overseas options of Lasith Malinga, Jason Behrendorff and Alzarri Joseph (in the three games he played) have done the majority of the Powerplay bowling. Mumbai could get Bumrah to bowl a couple of overs and target early wickets, and Hardik can focus on bowling in the middle overs.

Availability: Jason Behrendorff will leave after May 1.

Kolkata Knight Riders: 8 points

This has been a strange first half for Knight Riders. Having got off the blocks with four successive wins on the back Andre Russell’s all-round brilliance, Dinesh Karthik’s team has now lost three consecutive matches. Historically, Knight Riders have dominated at home, but this year they have lost two of the three games played there. Their top order has failed consistently with Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine and Nitish Rana being patchy. Karthik, too, is yet to make an impactful score.

Impact performers

What can they improve?
Knight Riders have depended on three spinners for a long time, but this season they have not delivered. Has the team become a bit too predictable with plans and personnel? The spinners average 39.11 and have an economy rate of 7.93 this season, the joint second worst on both counts.

Potential strategy change
Break the Narine-Chris Lynn opening combination and let Uthappa, or even Shubman Gill, bat at the top.

Availability: All overseas players are available.

Kings X1 Punjab: 8 points

With four wins and four losses, Kings XI have their task cut out in the remaining six games. But they remain in contention for the knockouts. They have wonone match which they should not have, and lost two that they should have won. The loss against Mumbai at Wankhede Stadium could come back to haunt them, as they would have had five wins at the halfway mark if they had pulled through.

Impact performers

  • R Ashwin – 9 wickets at an economy rate of 7.62 and a strike rate of 21.3

  • Chris Gayle – 322 runs at an average of 53.66 and a strike rate of 157.07

  • KL Rahul – 355 runs at an average of 67.00 and a strike rate of 130.85

What can they improve?
Gayle and Rahul have contributed 50% of the runs, but the middle order has failed to capitalise on the starts. In the middle overs, Kings XI have slowed down, resulting in under-par totals.

Potential strategy change
Including Moises Henriques not only provides balance to the batting order, but also provides a sixth bowling option. Also, Mujeeb Ur Rahman needs to play the remaining matches because he can tie up an end as well as take wickets with his mystery spin.

Availability: All overseas players are available.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 6 points

Last year’s runners-up, Sunrisers have been disappointing mainly due to the failure of their much-vaunted bowling attack and a near non-existent middle order. If Sunrisers are afloat, the credit goes to the overseas opening pair of David Warner and Jonny Bairstow. They have not only provided explosive starts, but also gone on to bat deep. But with both men expected to leave for their teams’ World Cup preparations, Sunrisers need to get their batting sorted if they want to advance to the playoffs.

Impact performers

  • David Warner – 400 runs at an average of 80.00 and a strike rate of 140.35

  • Jonny Bairstow – 304 runs at an average of 43.42 and a strike rate of 156.70

  • Rashid Khan – 6 wickets at an economy rate of 5.78 and a strike rate of 28.00

  • Mohammad Nabi – 7 wickets at an economy rate of 5.49 and a strike rate of 13.5

What can they improve?
If last year the team was dependent on Shikhar Dhawan and Kane Williamson, this year they have been heavily reliant on Warner and Bairstow. The two have scored 66% of their team’s runs. Meanwhile, Nos. 4-11 average just 12.75 and score at a run rate of 6.83, which is the lowest in this IPL.

Potential strategy change
A slightly radical suggestion: Williamson could open with Bairstow while Warner drops one slot, just to ensure at least one of the three main batsmen stays till the end.

Availability: Shakib Al Hasan could leave for national duty around the start of May. Bairstow and Warner likely to leave on April 25 and May 1 respectively.

Rajasthan Royals: 4 points

Royals are not in the pink of health. The team, which has changed its colours to a bright pink, is precariously placed with just two wins and five losses. Mistakes from last season have not been rectified, with Royals carrying four potential openers in the top seven, and certain players in key positions performing similar roles. In a tournament where early momentum is key to a playoff spot, Royals are still figuring out their best XI. Their dependency on Jos Buttler is hurting them. Last season, Buttler single-handedly took them to the playoffs, but Royals are likely to lose his services soon this year.

Impact performers

  • Jos Buttler – 288 runs at an average of 41.14 and a strike rate of 153.19

  • Shreyas Gopal – 8 wickets at an economy rate of 6.41 and a strike rate of 18

  • Jofra Archer – 7 wickets at an economy rate of 7.22 and a strike rate of 23.1

What can they improve?
In the last four overs, Royals’ economy rate is 12.17 – the worst this IPL. Additionally, they have taken only eight wickets in the death overs. Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat and Ben Stokes have gone at 18.50, 16.00 and 12.8 respectively in the last four.

Potential strategy change
Include the likes of Ashton Turner and Oshane Thomas ahead of Steven Smith and Stokes to improve the middle-overs batting and death bowling. Look to open with Rahul Tripathi to plan for Buttler’s departure.

Availability: Buttler and Stokes will be available only till April 25, as will Jofra Archer if he is selected in England’s World Cup squad (the announcement is due on Wednesday). Smith is expected to leave by May 1.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 2 points

Royal Challengers’ campaign has almost ground to a halt at the halfway stage. Just one win with six games left means a playoff spot is highly improbable. Their dependence on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers has not changed. In their only win this season, in Mohali against Kings XI, Kohli and de Villiers made fifties in the chase. The matches they came close to winning were also due to the performances of these two.

Impact performers

  • Virat Kohli – 278 runs at an average of 34.75 and a strike rate of 124.66

  • AB de Villiers – 307 runs at an average of 51.16 and a strike rate of 154.27

  • Yuzvendra Chahal – 11 wickets at an economy rate of 7.07 and a strike rate of 15.2

What can they improve?
The bowling needs to improve in key phases of the match – in the Powerplay and at the death. In the first six overs, Royal Challengers have taken only three wickets at an average of 140.33 and an economy rate of 8.77. In the last four overs, their economy rate is 11.50.

Potential strategy change
With the return of Dale Steyn, Royal Challengers would be hoping that their Powerplay and death-overs performances improve. The franchise paid big money for Mumbai’s batting allrounder Shivam Dube, who needs to be given more games to build his confidence.

Availability: Moeen Ali is available till April 25 if he is picked in England’s World Cup squad, and Marcus Stoinis is expected to leave by May 1.



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Crowd abuse is ‘water off a duck’s back’ as Steven Smith arrives in England with a hundred

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Steven Smith has dismissed his reception by the Hampshire crowd as “white noise” and “water off a duck’s back” after his century helped Australia to a 12-run victory over England.

Both Smith and David Warner were booed loudly by large sections of the crowd when they came out to bat and when they were dismissed, but Smith was also jeered when he reached fifty and then when he completed a sprightly hundred.

“I heard a few things as I went out to bat, but it didn’t really get to me,” said Smith, speaking for the first time since his return to the Australian squad. “I’m kind of just trying to keep my head down and move straight ahead and just do my job. Fortunately today I was able to score a few runs for the team and, more importantly, spend some time in the middle before our first game of the World Cup.”

While players have been booed on reaching milestones before, it remains a rarity in the game, but Smith is realistic about the likelihood of similar receptions over the course of the summer.

“It doesn’t bother me, it’s just doing my job and I know that I’ve got the support of my team-mates up on the balcony and that’s the most important thing. If I can make them proud out in the middle and make Australians proud as much as I can well, that’s my job.

“I just blank it out. They call it white noise. When I am out there I pay no attention to the crowd and just move on with playing the game.”

While fans were vocal during the match, Smith said he hadn’t received any abuse from the general public since arriving in England.

“No, it’s been really good I haven’t copped any which is really nice. I guess everyone is entitled their opinion and how they want to treat people, but it is water of a duck’s back. I’ll just do my own thing and just keep working hard to play hard.”

While there was booing when Smith reached his century, there was also applause – none more enthusiastic than from his team-mates standing on the dressing room balcony. Justin Langer indicated after Australia’s arrival in England that there would be special attention to the mental welfare of Smith and Warner and, after the match, Nathan Lyon emphasised the importance of mutual support over what is likely to be a gruelling summer.

“Obviously you always feel for them but it’s part of the game isn’t it? We were expecting it,” said Lyon.

“I don’t think it’s just Steve and David. I think when you’re in a team environment away from home and away from your loved ones and family etcetera, I think the word ‘care’ doesn’t get thrown around enough.

“I think if you can actually care about your team-mates and staff members, I think it’s very important. At the end of the day we’re humans. Like, we all want to be loved but it just doesn’t happen like that some days so it’s just all about hanging tough together. We know that the crowds are going to be ruthless over here.”

If anything, Smith’s year in exile looks to have had a positive effect on his batting. The familiar fidgety twitching and aggressively unorthodox batting hasn’t changed, but his 116 runs at the Ageus Bowl, following scores of 89 not out, 91 not out and 76 in three previous warm-up matches, suggests he is heading into the World Cup in better ODI form than he was in before the Newlands scandal forced his absence from the game.

“I was actually a little bit disappointed with my one-day form probably the last 18 months – take out the last 12 – so it was nice to spend a bit of time out in the middle today and the practice games that we’ve had so far I have felt really good. Everything is going well and I’m looking forward to the first game coming now.”

“I’m not reading too much into it, they’re just practice games at the moment, hopefully I can keep this form for the real stuff and we’ll make a judgment then. I am feeling good, I’m feeling calm at the crease and hitting the right balls I want to the boundary.”

While England had a frustrating day dominated by injury concerns, stand-in captain Jos Buttler saw much to admire in Smith’s innings.

“He just looked like the Steve Smith of old, didn’t he?” said Buttler. “He just played well. He played good cricket shots and very in control of his innings.”

“He looks the same player doesn’t he? He was a class player twelve months ago and he still is so he hasn’t obviously forgotten how to bat in that time, he is one of the world’s best batsmen and he knows his game very well and I think that’s what you saw today.”



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Lower-order contributions the biggest positive – Virat Kohli | Cricket

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Ravindra Jadeja made a good account of himself in tough conditions © Getty Images


India’s fightback after being reduced to 39 for 4 was the positive Virat Kohli chose to look back after their emphatic loss to New Zealand in their first warm-up fixture at The Oval. In the absence of Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav, India found a savior in Ravindra Jadeja, who top scored with a 50-ball 54 to haul India to 179.

Jadeja added 62 with Kuldeep Yadav for the eight wicket, allowing India to reach the 40-over mark, a prospect that looked unlikely when Trent Boult ran through the top order. Hardik Pandya’s brisk 30 led a brief revival, only for the innings to stutter again until Jadeja guided the lower order.

“Very good,” Kohli said of the lower-order contributions at the post-match presentation. “I mean, the one thing we spoke about in a tournament like the World Cup is, you could easily have your top order out for not too many, so the lower order has to look forward to that and I think Hardik [Pandya] batted really well. MS [Dhoni] absorbs the pressure really well and [Ravindra] Jadeja got a few runs as well, so I think from that point of view, we got a lot out of this game, which is what we wanted to. The lower order getting some runs that was the biggest positive.”

Kohli assessed the surface wasn’t as bowler-friendly in the second innings, after Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor put on a century stand to deflate India. New Zealand sealed victory with six wickets in hand and nearly 13 overs to spare.

“It’s going to be very different from batting second and we saw that in this [game] in the later half of our innings as well,” he said. “I think we bowled it in the right areas, they were going at about four, four-and-a-half, which I think we would take any day in a tournament where the pitches are going to be good. If we can keep hitting those areas consistently, which I think we did with the new ball and the spinners as well, we’re going to be fine with that bowling attack.”

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Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Somerset, Royal London One-Day Cup, Final

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Innings break Hampshire 244 for 8 (Northeast 56, Fuller 55*, J Overton 3-48) v Somerset

Royal London Cup holders Hampshire face a task on their hands with the ball if they are to retain the trophy after scrapping their way to 244 for 8. Shorn of three of the mainstays of their campaign by World Cup call-ups, a pair of half-centuries from Sam Northeast and James Fuller was as good as it got after Hampshire had chosen to bat, as Jamie Overton, Josh Davey and Somerset captain Tom Abell shared seven wickets between them.

Hampshire’s batsmen struggled to impose themselves from the outset – perhaps unsurprising when two players of the calibre of James Vince and Aiden Markram, now with England and South Africa respectively, had been removed from the top three – and but for Fuller’s late salvo during a 64-run stand with No. 10 Mason Crane, they might have left Somerset a target below 200.

At around the time Hampshire lost their fourth wicket, Liam Dawson was coming on for his first bowl in England’s World Cup warm-up match at the Ageas Bowl. How Hampshire fans would have preferred to see him walking out to the middle at Lord’s, following a Royal London campaign in which he claimed 18 wickets and averaged 45 with the bat. Instead it was Gareth Berg, with a List A highest score of 75, who came out at No. 6 to join Northeast.

Boundaries were at a premium as Somerset’s bowlers bustled about their business – given the scoring rate, this could almost have been a final from 2001, when Somerset last won a 50-over trophy at Lord’s. Jamie Overton broke a 49-run stand when Berg picked out deep backward square and Hampshire’s hopes of an imposing target seemingly departed with Northeast as he hacked across line, patience exhausted, to be bowled by Abell for 56.

Abell had only delivered one over in the format previously but also hit Kyle Abbott’s stumps in a tidy spell, while Chris Wood fell tamely to Jamie Overton, before Fuller and Crane begged and stole what they could during the last ten overs. A pair of clean-struck blows beyond the ropes from Fuller in the final over – the only sixes of the innings – suggested the pitch had runs left in it at halfway.

Perhaps hoping to follow the template of their victory over Kent last year, Hampshire chose to bat beneath low-slung cloud on a humid morning at Lord’s. While not exactly a green nibbler in September, there was enough in the surface for Somerset’s battery of right-arm medium bowlers to take advantage of.

Anuerin Donald struck a couple of early boundaries before hitting Davey straight to cover and although Tom Alsop and Joe Weatherley resolved to play their way in, it was ultimately to no avail. Alsop was dropped by James Hildreth at slip on 16, but obligingly recreated the chance off Davey’s very next ball and this time the Somerset veteran clung on.

Lewis Gregory strove for similar virtues of line and length when replacing Craig Overton and he found enough movement back in to defeat a loose push and remove Weatherley’s off stump in his second over, with Hampshire an anaemic-looking 50 for 3.

There followed a volley of retaliatory boundaries as Rilee Rossouw – Man of the Match for his 125 here a year ago – and Northeast dashed off 46 in 6.3 overs. Rossouw introduced himself to Gregory with a brusque force through the covers and then a swat over mid-on for four more but, having barrelled to 28 off 17 balls, he fell to the extra pace of Jamie Overton, cramped into edging a back-foot drive on to his stumps.

The onus now rested heavily on Northeast, Hampshire’s stand-in captain, and he packed away the shots to reach an 85-ball half-century. However, Abell was to steal his Lord’s limelight and help leave his team well-placed in pursuit of a first limited-overs title since 2005.



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