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Playoffs without the Kings!

Kings XI became the second team to be officially knocked out of this year IPL. Having required to win their last match against CSK to keep their qualifying hopes alive, the famed top 3 of the KXIP batting line up failed to deliver for the first time, ending up with a below-par score, and another brilliant inning from young sensation Rituraj Gayakwad, ensured that Punjab was knocked out of the tournament. 1. The tale of two half's KXIP were languishing at the bottom of the table after the first half of the season was done, having won only one out their first seven matches, KXIP were almost looked set to be one of the first teams to be knocked out. But these matches were not a true reflection of their performance, most of the matches where they should have won, but failed to finish the match in the end and ending up on the wrong side, and even at times the rub of the green not going for them, as in the case of wrong short-run call by the umpire. But their second half of the season was a stark contrast to the first, they looked a revamped squad, and along with the entry of Universal Boss, there was calm air to the team and they started winning the close matches that they were loosing before. Winning 5 matches straight, KXIP set to make it to the playoffs, but in the end couldn't win that one match of the last two, that was required to seal that top 4 berths. Nonetheless, they gave us great entertainment and kept the tournament alive to make it more interesting. 2. “Definitely not the last one” Those words that all the fans of Chennai Super Kings and probably the rest of cricketing fraternity were longing to hear. When asked at the toss whether this might be the last match that MSD was going to play in Yellow, Mahi replied with a resounding No, meaning we can expect at least another year of Mahi magic in IPL. After all, MS is one of the most successful and consistent captains in IPL and franchise cricket and national cricket history, and even the CSK management feels that there is more than Mahi can offer to the team and mould it into a force to reckon with for the future, and perhaps take them to one more title. Nonetheless, expect a swansong send-off to Mahi from CSK, the one he never got to enjoy as an Indian player. 3. The final pieces begin to fall into place. The playoffs race had reached a climactic stage for the last weekend of the league stages, with each match deciding whether a team is moving into playoffs or getting knocked out. In the first of such matches, KXIP needed a strong victory against CSK, who were the only team to be knocked out yet. Unfortunately for the Kings, this was the first time that at least one of their top 3 failed to score a big one take the team to a respectable score. Although a brilliant late 50+ plus Hooda did help, the final score was below par. The bowling of KXIP lacked penetration, and CSK chased down the score with relative ease, to make sure that one KINGS put another out of the tournament, much to the delight of other teams in the qualifying race. 4. A campaign that could have been By far this has been the worst IPL season for CSK ever, being the first team to be knocked out off this season’s IPL, and their first time not making it to the last 4 of the competition in the 13 editions thus far. Much of that success can be attributed to a stable CSK team keeping that core group of players and building around them. But that phase had to come to end, as that core group was ageing and was going retire in a season or two, and the change in venue to Dubai has exposed that fact even more. But Chennai did bounce back very strongly in the latter half of their season, especially in their last 4 matches, where youngsters like Gayakwad has performed extremely well and has taken the team home. Also with Jadeja hitting form with the bat, Sam Curran and Ngidi showing signs of brilliance, and Faf’s consistency. If those people had been given an earlier and longer opportunity, the story could well have been different for CSK, after all, it was just by 2 points that they missed out on a chance to qualify.
Nonetheless, CSK look set to be back with a bang for the next season, and this could be further reinforced if they could make some inspired buys in the auction for next season and beyond.

The Qualification race heats up

This was a must win game for KKR to keep the qualification chances in their hands, but they have blown it. Against an opposition whom they might have thought be easily picked off, Chennai came into the match with nothing to lose and put in a strong spirited performance to steal the match, with great performances from Gaikwad and Jadeja. This win for CSK, opening up the points table even more and paving way for Mumbai to qualify. 1. Future looks sparkling for Chennai Much of this year's IPL was a lack luster performance from the men in yellow, with clear lack of intent from many of the players especially in the batting department, this even led MSD to say the youngsters lacked spark to play in the team. But having got consistent chances in the team, they are beginning to show their metal, especially Ruturaj Gaikwad, has been the match winner for them in the last two matches with consecutive unbeaten half centuries at the top of the order, and taking his team home. With Watson set to hang up his boots by the end of this season, he looks a perfect replacement at the top, and could solve CSK's run rate worry in powerplays.CSK management would be hoping to find similar answers to few more of their problems, going into next season, and with few clever guys in the auction, the Chennai Lions could be roaring back next season. 2. Jadeja the finisher. Ravindra Jadeja has come a long way from being called the bits and pieces cricketer. He has been one of the shining lights, in what has otherwise been a disastrous campaign for CSK. Sir Jadeja was always regarded as bowler who can bat a bit, but this season has been quite different to that belief. It is his bat that has been doing most of the talking, especially his end overs hitting ability. He has been instrumental in some of the victories that CSK have score this season, including this match where he scored 31 of mere 11 balls. His exploits at the end in the season’s IPL include 232 runs from 11 innings at an average of 46.4, and Strike rate of over 170, which gets him a spot in the top 5 fastest scorers this season, alongside the likes of Pollard, Pandya and ABD.If he continues in this form, he could become a long time finisher for CSK, taking over from Dhoni and Bravo. 3. CSK the saviour of other teams Being the first team to he knocked out of this seasons IPL, Chennai can now play a more free brand of Cricket, without any weight of expectations having over them.They could be real superheroes for some teams while being absolute Villains for others. In this match as well, all the other 6 teams, would have been rooting for CSK to win as it would help their qualification scenario in one or the other way. With CSK's victory MI became the first team to qualify, where as RCB and DC's chances of qualification went up, while the chances of KXIP, SRH, and RR' are very much kept alive. Even KKR can still make it to the playoffs, but now they have to be dependent on the results of others and also win by a big margin on their last match owing to a poor Net Run Rate and the fact that maximum they can finish on 14 points. 4. The points table conundrum With 49 games being completed and end of League stage nearing, there are only two things that have been confirmed till now, that CSK have been knocked out of the tournament and Mumbai are the only team to have qualified for the playoffs yet. With just 7 more games yet to be played, 6 teams are still in the race for the playoffs with all being on 10,12 or 14 points each, as the competition has become more intense in the past week and half, with the bottom placed teams beating the top teams.Delhi and RCB look in better condition to qualify given their better NRR, but nothing can be taken to granted yet. A win for KXIP in the next match against RR, could almost guarantee them a spot and knock Rajasthan out of the tournament. Whatever happens, each match from here on will be decisive and would determine who would go through to the qualifiers and who would go out, and would be virtual quarterfinal fights

RCB vs CSK: Finally, the men in yellow sparkle

The 44th match of the IPL 2020 took place between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The men from the City of Garden were dressed up in green jerseys as part of the Go Green initiative (the batsmen wearing green jerseys and bright red pads were too shiny requiring the viewers to use coolers to look at the television screens). At last, CSK put up a flawless performance in this season, courtesy of some good performances from fresh faces and much talked about spark from the youngsters. #1 Decent Powerplay The toss went in favor of skipper Kohli and he opted to bat. The RCB’s opening pair of Finch and Padikkal started positively in the powerplay sensing that the scoring might get difficult as they are playing on the used pitch. Finch could not get going big once again and he fell to Sam Curran in the 4th over. Despite that, RCB managed to put a decent score at the end of the powerplay and they ended with 46-1. #2 No real take-off After Padikkal’s dismissal, the two most prized men of the RCB could not go all guns blazing as the slow bowlers from CSK tightened the screws. Santner playing his first game for CSK this season bowled very tight lines and finished his spell with an economy rate of less than 6. Tahir and Jadeja also bowled stump to stump and gave no room for the batsmen to swing their arms. Because of the great understanding and fitness levels that Kohli and ABD share, they were putting pressure on the CSK fielders thereby compensating to an extent for the lack of boundaries in the middle overs. It was a decent partnership of 81 off 72 balls, but it never really took off as the RCB fans would have expected. #3 Fabulous Faf Faf du Plessis – this man is everywhere on the field as far as CSK is concerned. He is 36 years old but never seems like one and is very livewire on the field as if he is in his early 20’s. Stationed at the most important positions in the field, he always delivers for the team. Today he pulled off three catches at the boundary lines of which two were excellent. He has more than 10 catches to his name this season and has stood apart from the rest of the slow-moving men in the field for the yellow team. #4 The Lion King Sam Curran – the most positive outcome coming out of this season for CSK. He has done everything nicely that has been asked of him – opening the batting, pinch-hitting in the middle, bowling in the powerplay, and even in death overs as well. He is also the source of much-required energy in the field. In the game against RCB, he effected three important dismissals of Finch, Kohli, and Ali. The wicket of Kohli was more crucial as he was the well-set batsmen and his dismissal ensured that RCB fell short at least by 10-15 runs. #5 Spark plug connected right With the team chasing 145, Ruturaj Gaikwad started on the right note after multiple failures in the previous games. He played with the right mix of caution and aggression and gave CSK the perfect start on the slow pitch. Helped by a quick cameo from Faf initially, Gaikwad came into his game slowly and rotated the strike keeping the scoreboard ticking consistently. He took the calculated risks then and there and cleared the boundaries comfortably. It was a very good-looking innings from him, bringing up his maiden IPL fifty in the process and one can confidently say that there are many more to come from this youngster. #6 Smooth finish Coming at one down, Rayudu played an aggressive knock and put the pressure straight away on the opposition. His quickfire knock helped the team to bring the required run rate well below 6 and provided ample support for the youngster at the other end as well. After his dismissal, the skipper Dhoni arrived and made sure there is no further loss of wickets for his team in the run chase. Ruturaj Gaikwad was duly awarded the Man of the Match award for his scintillating performance with the bat. #7 The Right Intent It was almost a perfect game for the CSK which they have been yearning for this whole season. Despite losing the toss, the CSK bowlers were right on the mark and they did not give any room for the RCB batsmen to free their arms and exploited the conditions which were similar to what they get in Chennai. They also showed the right intent and approach during the run chase, making it to the winning line without much fuss. The men in green did not adapt to the conditions on offer as the extra pace which they possess proved to be handy for the opposition this time, not for them. After this loss, they are in a tricky position now. Though they are in the top half of the points table, they are facing the table-toppers MI and DC in their next two encounters. So, Kohli and co need to get some things right to make sure they stay in the top 4 at the end of the league stage. On the other hand, CSK has two more games to give the youngsters much-needed exposure and identify the right personnel for the next season. Mathematically they can still make it to the playoffs, but it is a long shot and even a hardcore CSK fan would not be much optimistic about that. But they can play spoilsport for other teams who are vying for a spot in the playoffs. Hopefully, they reiterate today’s performance in the upcoming matches and end the season on a positive note. Cheers!

A day for the underdogs

Today might have been as dramatic as last Sunday was, with 3 super overs on the same day, this weekend was no pushover in terms of entertainment. Especially with both the matches going against the predictions of the pundits, as the laggards on the points table got one over the favourite table toppers. The second match in particular saw RR chase down a mammoth target with relative ease thanks to a master class from Stokes and pure class from Samson. 1. Coming of age for Ben stokes Stokes returns this season once he joined the Rajasthan squad late due to personal reasons was poor and not reflective of the fine cricketer he is. He had scored a mere 110 runs from his 5 innings opening the batting at an average of 22. There were many questions raised about RR’s tactics of persisting with Stokes at the top of the order, when they had their last years match winner at the top Jos Buttler waiting in the dugout. But boy did Stokes answer those critics in style, he was in fluent touch this match against arguably the best bowling line up of this seasons IPL. He took all the MI bowlers to the cleaners and got to his second IPL century, ending up not out on 107 of 60 balls and seeing his team through to an easy victory against the top team in league. 2. The ups and downs of RR batting Rajasthan have been one of the most inconsistent teams this season, especially when it comes to their batting performances. Lots of chopping and changing at the top of the order having tried 6 different players to open the innings, but currently seem to be settling in, and this match performance is one of their complete ones. Form of Sanju Samson is a key for RR’s success, he is without a doubt is one of the most talented players going around, that is proved by his effortless batting and shot making. But he hasn’t always made the best use of his talents, blowing hot and cold throughout the season, and now with a fixed position at no.3, RR will be hoping for more match winning performances from him. Smith’s form is a slight worry, but the two Englishmen’s striking abilities, seem to have given a boost to RR’s batting. 3. Fact check for Mumbai Mumbai Indians have been one of the most consistent teams this season, having won 7 of their 10 games before this match, and coming off the back off a dominant 10 wicket victory against arch enemies CSK, MI were the fan favourites to win this match.But they were given a harsh realty check, especially a match that was lost by their famed bowling line up, after the batsmen, especially Hardik put in a scintillating performance with the bat to take MI to 194 in 20 overs. The strong bowling line up of Bumrah, Boult, Pattison and Rahul chahar were taken to the cleaners by Stokes and Samson, and the fact that almost 200 was chased down with almost 2 overs remaining would have hurt MI’s confidence. But thanks to their superior NRR, they still remain at the top of the table and are pretty much guaranteed of a definite spot in the playoffs. And with Rohit expected back from next match, MI look to bounce back strong. 4. The fight for the top 4 spots This has been one of the most competitive week of cricket in this season IPL, and the points table has really opened up with all the top 3 teams which were looking like they were going to run away with the points, have lost their last matches and could be feeling a little vulnerable.Sadly CSK became the first team to be officially eliminated, even after their victory against RCB earlier in the day, the first time there would be playoffs in which Chennai will be not a part of. But still, all the other 7 teams are in the running for the top 4 spots, with tough competition for the 4th spot, in that context the next match between KKR and KXIP gets great importance, as this is a clash of no.4 vs no.5 in the points table, and the winner, will be in with a real chance of qualification.

MI vs CSK- Talking Points

In probably the most one-sided game of this season and CSK’s worst-ever performance on the field, the much anticipated high stakes clash between MI and CSK turned out to be an absolute Route, as Mumbai ran away with the match. It was like a full-strength Barcelona playing a tier-3 team, simply there was no competition. Chennai did follow the football scoreline very closely being 3-4 by the third over, and there was no coming back. 1. The opening Duo The opening partnership is not always about the two opening batsmen but also implies to the bowlers. Kieron Pollard couldn’t have asked for a better gift from his two-star pacemen when he elected to field first having won the toss as MI’s captain for the first time this year in the absence of Rohit Sharma. Bothe Boult and Bumrah tore into the hapless CSK top order and reduced them to 3 for 4 in the first 3 overs. Unlike MI’s opening combination, the new opening combo of Faf and Rituraj Gaikwad failed to provide an impetus to the batting innings, and in fact, the top 4 batsmen scores looked like a Binary code of 0’s and 1’s.
All the MI bowlers were ruthless in their attack and had reduced CSK to 43 for 7 by the 9th over, and there was no coming back from that for men in Yellow. 2. The spark that is fading fast With the writing almost on the wall for this season, MSD made a few changes to the team and bought in young blood into the team, in a hope to add more spark to their miserable batting line up. There were three changes in total, with Rituraj Gaikwad, N.Jagadeesan and Tahir coming in for Watto, Chawla and fan favourite to be dropped, Mr Kedar Jadhav.
But none of the new additions seemed to make any impact, in fact, looked even more lacklustre than the ones they replaced. Both the youngsters even failed to trouble the scorers as they went for ducks, perhaps strengthening the comments and observation made by captain MSD in the previous match about the lacking spark in youngsters.
But Chennai would be better served to try out new players and give youngsters more of a long run as the playoff hopes are logically impossible although mathematically probable. 3. The perfect match for Mumbai Indians This performance from the defending champions was as dominant as it could get. Coming in with a slight set back of missing their Talisman and regular skipper Rohit Sharma owing to some slight sickness, Pollard and his boys were in top form in every aspect of the game.
The bowlers did a wonderful job, and at one time looked at wrapping up CSK’s innings with a score well below 100. But some late fight from Sam Curran took CSK to 114 for 9.
But any hopes of CSK fightback were quickly squashed by the Mumbai opening duo of Quinny and Ishan Kishan, Kishan was particularly hard on the Chennai bowlers, who seemed to be bowling on a completely different track to the one MI bowlers bowled on. The match was finished in 12.2 overs, with all 10 wickets intact to further add to CSK’s misery.
This win took MI to the top of the table, and gave a huge boost to their NRR and almost ensures a top two finishing position if they win a couple of their remaining 4 games. 4. Has the trend changed in this IPL The initial trend in this year’s IPL was that team batting first and putting up a decent total would end up defending it and winning the matches. This was also statistically supported as the win percentage of the teams batting first in first 30 matches of this season was almost 75%, with 22 wins prompting captains to win the toss and bat first.
But in the past week and a half, that trend seems to have taken a U-Turn as chasing seem to be the best way in matches. As proof for that theory, in the 11 matches that have happened since 10 of them have been won by the teams chasing and the sole match went to the super over where Punjab triumphed over Mumbai after not one but two super overs.
Whether this shift is due to change in pitch conditions or dew factor, or batsmen becoming more adept in chasing, the mindset of the teams going forward would be to win the toss and put the oppositions in.

RR vs SRH: Splendid Manish makes the Royals bow down!!

The 40th match of this year’s IPL took place between Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad at Dubai International Stadium. Even though it was a contest between the two teams that are in the bottom half of the points table, it was a crucial game not only for them but also for the other teams that are vying for a spot in the playoffs. At the end of the night, the men in orange came out on top and grabbed the crucial 2 points to stay alive in the tournament. #1 Steady Start Rajasthan started on a bright note with Uthappa hitting some boundaries in his typical fashion, making use of the powerplay restrictions. Stokes could not get going much as he was scoring at less than run a ball. After Uthappa’s dismissal, Samson showed a little glimpse of his initial good form in this season. He timed the ball neatly and scored 36 in a quick time and got his team off to a decent score at the halfway mark. #2 Holder Shouldering Jason Holder was announced as the replacement for Mitchell Marsh who suffered an injury in the very first game for SRH this season. He got a chance in the playing XI tonight due to an unfortunate injury that Williamson suffered in the previous game. Holder started performing for the men in orange from the word go. He started by effecting Uthappa’s runout in the powerplay. Then he picked up the wicket of dangerous-looking Samson who was set for a big knock. Coming back in the death overs, he rocked the RR’s middle order by dismissing Smith and Parag off consecutive deliveries, denying them a strong finish with the bat. #3 Fiery Archer It is an odd sight when an English bowler and Aussie captain plan together to get rid of an opening pair of Aussie and English batsmen. That is what the essence of IPL is all about. Smith kept an aggressive field for Warner off Archer, and he bowled a beautiful outswinger which carried to the second slip at Stokes. Then with his sheer pace and ability to swing the ball into the right-handers, Archer dismissed Bairstow and showed him the way to the pavilion. He was almost untouchable in the opening spell of the night. #4 Stylish Manish Manish Pandey was not performing to his potential in this season. He was then and thereabouts throughout this year for SRH. He finally clicked off in the game against RR. Despite losing the early wickets of Warner and Bairstow, he started the counterattack against RR bowlers. He targeted Karthik Tyagi and took him to the cleaners. He cleared the boundaries at his will by playing simple and proper cricketing shots. He brought up his fifty in 28 balls and saw his team off to a much-required victory. He stayed unbeaten on 83 scoring at a strike rate of 176.6. #5 The Finisher arrives Vijay Shankar was in and out of the side this season due to an injury. Coming out of the injury, he bowled well in the last couple of games. Today coming in at No.4, he played the right foil for Manish who was blistering the bowlers at the other end. He took his time initially and then started rotating the strike. And then he finally took charge of the chase by hitting 3 boundaries off Archer in a single over. Hitting the winning runs, he brought up his fifty and played the role of finisher to a good extent which was one area that SRH was very much concerned about. #6 Smith misses a trick With the kind of form Archer has been, Smith could have considered giving an extra over to him in the powerplay after he picked up two early wickets. At that time Manish was fresh at the crease and one more wicket could have triggered the collapse of SRH’s batting as there was not much firepower left in the middle order in the absence of Williamson. But that was not the case tonight. By the time Archer returned to bowl again, Manish was well past his fifty and Vijay Shankar also was settled down to a certain extent. #7 Not the right batting order Stokes opening the batting has not done much good for the team and Stokes himself. So, the RR’s team management must allow the players to play at their natural positions as now they would have seen the turnaround in Uthappa’s form once he started opening the batting. Stokes can play down the order and Butler can once again open for RR where he was so successful for them in the last season. Thus, they need to get their batting order sorted out sooner as they are running out of time with the league stage nearing its end. With SRH getting victorious tonight, they moved to the 5th position in the points table. The positive NRR has helped them to overtake RR and KXIP even though all the three teams share the same number of points. We have entered the last leg of the tournament where the result of every game brings a shuffle in positions of the teams in the points table which is pretty much exciting from the fan’s perspective. Looking forward to more twists and turns in the tournament accompanied by the shuffles in the points table as well. Cheers!

Si-Raj Rules as KKR Crumble, What’s in Store for the Knights?

23rd April 2017 KKR wrecked RCB at the Eden Gardens as the Challengers posted the lowest IPL score ever, 49. The Knight Riders won that game by 82 runs and brought upon eternal shame to RCB. 21st October 2020 Almost 42 months since that unforgettable day, it was the forgotten man who made KKR payback. Mohammad Siraj often claimed to be the weak link of RCB’s bowling, bowled two consecutive maidens, the first time that has happened ever in IPL history as he reduced KKR to its knees. After winning the toss and choosing to bat (Seriously, do captains and coaches even think about this? There is no rule that you have to bat if you win the toss, this is not street cricket) KKR was reeling at 3-3. The condition worsened for the Knights as there was no sign of recovery and there isn’t much to write about what happened. KKR posted the lowest score of this IPL which RCB chased in 12 overs without any hiccups. End of story. What is wrong with KKR? If you consider the 5 wins KKR has registered, two of those were gifted by the opposition (CSK and KXIP) and one was due to sheer individual brilliance (Lockie Ferguson vs SRH). Only two of their 5 wins have come from all-round team performance. That being said, KKR, since the last year, have been over-dependent on Andre Russell, whose fitness and lack of form has hurt them badly this year. Apart from Shubman Gill, all other batsmen have come a cropper, while their bowling has been on par and cannot take much blame. The root cause of this issue is the nonsensical idea of a floating middle order and not assigning proper roles to the correct players (players, who in their correct roles are world-beaters). This is not good signs at the business end of the tournament and KKR may need some special individual performances to take them to the Playoffs because as a team, they haven’t clicked for over two years. Brining in Sunil Narine might paper over cracks but is not a permanent solution. The permanent solution is for at least 3 of their top 6 batsmen to hit form, and most importantly right away. RCB Bowling to the fore As for RCB, they have finally made peace with bowling. Saini and Morris have offered pace and discipline, Udana being the handy medium pace bowler. Chahal and Washington have cranked spin bowling up a notch, and their weak link has risen to the occasion, metaphorically ticking all the boxes for RCB.

End of the road for one and a ray of hope for another team

Another batting performance that completely lacked any intent from the Chennai Superkings resulted in yet another one sided game, despite the initial bowling burst from the CSK pacers picking 3 wickets in the first 5 overs. But a Buttler’s brilliance coupled with the calm of Steve Smith ensured a 7 wicket win for the Royals with 15 balls to spare. 1. The batting woes continue Electing to bat first for the second time this season, CSK continued with the change at the top of the order by sending Sam Curran to open alongside Faf Duplessis. Although CSK both their inform players in Faf and Watson cheaply, the powerplay wasn’t all that bad in terms of scoring rate, with run rate above 7. It was again the middle overs agony for CSK, this time with different players MS and Jaddu. They were ridiculously slow in their batting even considering that the pitch was holding up and turning, and the fact that both Dhoni and Jadeja aren’t that comfortable against leg spin. They scored just 57 runs of the 11 overs between 7 and 17th, the lowest in this year’s IPL. But this time there was no flurry even at the death overs, and CSK ended up with a meagre score of 125 in their 20 overs, which was well below par for this pitch. 2. Buttler the finisher Rajasthan have tinkered a lot with their batting line up this season, with Stokes opening with Uthappa, and Buttler, who was prolific for them at the top being pushed down to the role of a finisher. In this match though, Rajasthan were in big trouble when Buttler came in the 5th over, having lost 3 wickets for just 20 odd runs. What followed a masterful innings from the Englishman, who along with his captain Steve Smith steadied the ship and ensured that RR crossed the line easily without any further hurdles. Buttler scored a brilliant 70 of 48 balls and made sure to take his team home, and rightly won the man of the match award for his heroics, and RR finally seem to be getting hang of their batting order, and would greatly benefit if Buttler continues his form. 3. Hope for Rajasthan With this victory over CSK, Rajasthan have very much kept their playoffs hopes alive. There seems to be a clear divide opening up in the points table between the top 4 and the bottom 4 teams, but still RR feel they have more than good chance to qualify if they keep their current form going.
RR would like to put in a more combined team effort, as it has been flashes of individual brilliance that have won their games this season. Looking ahead, they have matches against SRH, MI, KXIP and KKR to follow, and if things go according to plan, the last match of the tournament between Rajasthan and Kolkata could be a virtual knock out game for sealing the playoffs spot. 4. Is it the end of an Era One of the most successful teams in the history of IPL and the most consistent team without a doubt, having reached the Playoffs in every season till now, that rich history seems to be coming to an end for CSK and their fans this season. This was seen coming from many people after Chennai picked an aging and spin heavy side in the initial auction after coming back. But they performed extremely well in the last two years, but that seems to be coming to an end. As Dhoni himself admitted, CSK are not playing the brand of cricket that they are used to, and there is a clear lack of intent and enthusiasm in the middle and not helped by unavailability of Rainia and Harbajan. This could be the last IPL for many of their players, including Thala, Watson, Bajji, Tahir and others. Although there is a mathematical chance for CSK to qualify, it seems highly unlikely that CSK would make it through this year, and should rather focus on giving more chances to the youngsters in the remaining games, to give them more exposure and build a team for the future

MI vs KXIP: Double Dhamaka on Super Sunday

The match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab will etch its name in the history of the game for being the first of its kind, taking two Super Overs to arrive at a winner. After a Super over finish in the earlier game between SRH and KKR, this match went up a notch and gave a much more thrilling contest as part of the Sunday doubleheader. And it was the boys from Punjab who ended up on the winning side after numerous twists and turns all through the night. #1 Opening burst The KXIP bowlers were on the mark after Rohit won the toss and opted to bat. They bowled tight lines and made the run-scoring difficult for the MI top-order batsmen. Arshdeep Singh grabbed the big wicket of Rohit, then bagging Ishan Kishan as well. Meanwhile, Shami dismissed the dark knight of MI, Suryakumar Yadav. The top order which has been successful so far this tournament for MI was back in the hut even before the end of the powerplay. #2 Consistency personified Quinton de Kock, the star performer in MI’s previous game, once again continued his good form and brought up his 4th half-century for this season. Though his strike rate in this game was on the lower side when compared to his other knocks, he provided the much-required stability at one end when the wickets were falling at the other end. He along with Krunal Pandya steadied the ship for Mumbai in the middle after losing early wickets. #3 The Pollard Power After the dismissal of QDK, MI was struggling to go beyond 150 then. But the ever-reliant Pollard came to the rescue of the Mumbai Indians for the nth time and delivered it with his sensible power hitting. He finished the innings unbeaten on 34 striking at the rate of 283.33. He was ably supported by Coulter-Nile at the other end who played a brilliant cameo scoring 24 runs off 12 balls. #4 The Lone Warrior KL Rahul, the orange cap holder once again held the forte for his side and started well in the powerplay. Though criticized for his strike rate by some, I think it is very unfair on him as he can’t do everything on his own and the other people in the team must step up and take responsibilities, lending the much-required support to their skipper. He scored the 5th half-century of the season but could not get his team across the line thanks to a gem of delivery from Bumrah. He has now scored more than 500 runs in the last 3 seasons which shows his consistency and his growth as a T20 batsman at the top. #5 Rising Chahar Another person with Rahul as his first name making strides in this IPL season. Going into the tournament, the one thing MI might have felt a little weaker is the spin department which was relatively lesser experienced when compared to the other teams. But Rahul Chahar has blown away all those concerns and is consistently delivering for the defending champions. Once again, he bowled beautifully today and removed the big guns, Gayle and Maxwell. #6 Boom Boom Bumrah The go-to-man for Rohit - then, now, and forever. He delivered at the start by picking up the in-form Mayank Agarwal. Then Rohit threw the ball to him when Pooran was going all guns blazing and Bumrah delivered once again by dismissing him and returned the control of the match to the Mumbai side. Coming at the death, he picked up the crucial wicket of KL Rahul who was threatening to take the match away from MI. He finished off with the bowling figures of 4-0-24-3. He bowled excellently in the first Super Over as well conceding only 5 runs but MI’s batsmen failed him as his performance was a match-winning worthy. #7 Sensational Shami After witnessing the heroics from Bumrah in the first Super Over, much was expected of Shami to deliver for KXIP. And boy did he!! He bowled all the 6 deliveries in the yorker length and made it tough for the inform batsmen Rohit and de Kock to find the gaps. He had an immaculate control over his line and length in that pressure situation. He successfully defended it for the KXIP ensuring that the match went into the second Super Over. Those overs from Bumrah and Shami showed that the future of the Indian bowling attack is in good hands. #8 Match-saver Mayank Pollard opened the batting in the second Super Over for MI and Jordan bowled a decent spell conceding 9 runs off the first 5 balls. Then Pollard hit the last ball of the over to the midwicket where Mayank Agarwal was stationed. He made an outstanding effort to catch the ball as it was going over the boundary line and threw it back into the field thereby saving four runs which turned out to be the game-changing moment for the KXIP. Then Gayle opened the batting for KXIP and smashed a six off the first ball and Mayank did the rest taking his team to a much-needed victory. With this victory, Punjab has moved from the bottom to the 6th position in the points table. Getting over the line in the last two encounters in such a closer fashion, they may think that the bad clouds are finally off them and they are very much alive in the tournament. Mumbai has a little thinking to do even as their spot in the playoffs is almost certain. The bowling unit barring Bumrah and Chahar is not consistent enough and they need to get that right before its time for the playoffs. The teams are surely turning up the heat in the middle out there in the land of desert and hopefully, our eyes will be treated with much more breath-taking action on the field going forward. Cheers!

Did Simple Mistakes cost Rajasthan the Game?

AB de Villiers validated that RCB screwed up sending him down the order vs Kings XI Punjab as he continued his scintillating form to help RCB win the Royal Derby. However, will Rajasthan get any chance to vindicate themselves after making glaring errors? Let us discuss. 1) It has been 9 games and Rajasthan Royals still hasn’t got a fixed opening pair. If you need to perform well in the IPL, you need to momentum. You need to win 2-3 games on the trot. That can be done only by having a fixed team where each player knows his position and responsibility. Tampering with your openers even after 9 games clearly shows the team’s lack of plans. RR has tried a variety of combinations consisting of Smith, Buttler, Jaiswal, Uthappa and Stokes and are yet to zero in on one combination. Such mistakes lead to chain to mistakes. 2) Stokes and Buttler interchange roles. Smart? No. Not smart, especially after both struggled. Stokes is one of the best limited overs finisher and Buttler is a proven T20 opener. To interchange their roles just for the sake of a left-right batting combination is ridiculous. Stokes struggled as an opener and Buttler struggled as a middle order batsman today and had they played in their original positions, RR might have posted a bigger total. Shoutout to Robin Uthappa for a brilliant vintage performance at the top of the order. 3) Steve Smith messes up by bowling Unadkat in the penultimate over of the chase. When 35 is required off 12 balls, you fancy the bowling team, especially when one over is going to be bowled by Jofra Archer. And there is a saying that your best bowler should bowl the 19th over. However, Steve Smith (either overconfidently or ignorantly) gave Unadkat the 19th over, which was bulldozed by the master AB de Villiers for 3 sixes and 25 runs subsequently. Unatkat is a proven weak link at the death overs and it is high time the RR management decides he should finish his quota of 4 overs much before the death overs, like how CSK is doing with Deepak Chahar. 10 runs was too less for Archer to defend in the last over as RCB romped home. 4) What is the role of Aaron Finch for RCB? RCB’s batting has been strong for most of the season. Their dependency has shifted from Kohli and de Villiers and now the load has been shared at the top by Padikkal and Finch. Tje reason RCB are posting good totals is because of the solid opening pair. Padikkal used to take advantage of the powerplay while Finch played sheet anchor. But of late, Padikkal has slowed his pace and isn’t fetching quick runs. With Finch doing the same, RCB’s top order is proving to be less useful. Probably Josh Philippe can come in to provide an aggressive start while Padikkal plays the anchor role? This will take the wicket keeping responsibility away from ABD and may give him more liberty and less strain. Long story short, RCB have cemented their place as a frontrunner in this tournament and RR is on life support, waiting for Red Priestess to resurrect their dying tournament back to life.

MI vs KKR: Knight Riders outplayed by dominant MI

The 32nd match of the IPL 2020 took place between the Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians at Abu Dhabi and once again Rohit Sharma’s men stamped their dominance over the men in purple and extended their already lopsided head-to-head record to 21-6 in MI’s favor. #1 Same old scenes The new captain for the KKR Eoin Morgan won his first toss and opted to bat first as expected. But what was not expected is the carnage of dismissals of the KKR’s top order. It was a repeat of the collapse they had the other night against RCB. Boult drew the first blood by dismissing Tripathi courtesy of a stunning catch by Suryakumar Yadav. Then Coulter-Nile who was playing his first game for MI this season dismissed Rana cheaply. The wrecker in chief for the day was Rahul Chahar who exploited the slow conditions on offer and dismissed the inform Shubman Gill. #2 Karthik, still clueless Dinesh Karthik had relinquished his captaincy duties earlier in the day to concentrate more on his batting from hereon. But it was no different today and he was dismissed for a paltry score by a beautiful delivery from Chahar. The ever-improving Bumrah set up the out of form Russell brilliantly and showed him the way to the pavilion. Half of the KKR team was in the dugout by the 11th over with the new captain stranded in the middle. #3 Billion-dollar rescue In came Pat Cummins, the highest-paid players in this year’s tournament. Having enjoyed a mixed season with the ball, he started whacking the bowlers to all corners of the ground. Along with Morgan, they stitched a crucial partnership to take the KKR scoreboard to a respective total who were otherwise staring at a score below 100. Striking at the rate of 147 Cummins brought up his fifty in the process, and so did Coulter-Nile with the ball for MI. #4 Magnificent QDK Quinton de Kock continued his fine form with the bat against KKR as well. He was utilizing the powerplay to the fullest, even when the Hitman was struggling to get going at the other end. It looked like QDK was batting on a completely different pitch altogether where the other batsmen struggled to find the right timing. Propelling MI off to a flying start, he brought up his 3rd fifty of the season. There was no looking back for MI from then. Helped by a little cameo from Hardik, he led MI to an impressive 8 wicket victory staying unbeaten on 78. #5 Leadership change All the talk going into the match was about the change in captaincy for KKR. One cannot argue that it was the need of the hour as the team has been already facing many issues and the captaincy change was the last thing they would have wanted. It may propel the team forward or create disharmony in the team and backfire. Only time will tell if this is the right decision or not, going forward. Still, Morgan being a WC winning captain, one can believe that he has it in him to take the KKR to the IPL glory, so does the KKR team management. #6 The Narine factor Also, KKR is missing Narine for his pinch-hitting role in the batting and his 4 overs of spin which are like gold dust given the present slow conditions on offer in UAE. The only other shining light on the day was the performance of the youngsters Varun Chakravarthy and Shivam Mavi. But they need their big guns Karthik, Russell, and Cummins to fire consistently to seal the spot in the playoffs. And the competition is also heating up in the bottom half of the points table with the gaps between the teams narrowing as the days pass by. #7 Champions for a reason Coming to Mumbai Indians, they are sitting pretty at the top of the table. With no injury concerns and a well-settled line-up, they are miles apart from other teams in terms of stability and the team balance, and on current form, they are looking like the team to beat. The defending champions are proving to be serious contenders for the title this season and hopefully break their jinx of not winning the title in an even year. With KKR losing steam in their last two encounters and CSK and KXIP picking up wins in their respective previous games, the tournament is still alive and kicking with all teams in contention for the playoff spots. Hopefully, the next few weeks will deliver high intense action of cricket on the field. Cheers!

Finally Punjab get one over the line

Kings XI once again managed to make a thrilling match of what was supposed be an easy victory for them, and almost ended up tying the game from being in a commanding position to win it just couple of overs back. But the last ball six from Pooran finally managed to give them their second victory, interestingly both coming against the same opposition RCB. 1. Mistake of not sending in ABD in his usual spot? Virat won the toss and elected to bat first, and once the openers got out after a decent start, there was surprise change in the RCB batting order when Sundar came in at no.4 in the 7th over.This decision surprised all the commentators and the fans, because after all it was ABD’s brilliance that won the last game for RCB.
But there was some thought gone into this decision to hold back AB, considering his and Virat’s struggles against leg spin in the past couple of seasons, ABD having dismissed 8 times in his last 22 innings by a leggie, and KXIP playing 2 leggies. But not sending AB even in the 11th over when Sundar got out, was probably a big mistake that cost RCB around 20-25 runs in their final tally, after all your best and inform players must face as many deliveries as possible, surely AB would have handled the bowling much better than Sundar and Dube, with all respect to both of them. RCB did miss a trick trying to change things up. 2. Change in bowling tactics One thing that RCB will be buoyed about this season is their bowling attack, especially in the death overs, which looks far better compared to previous season. The general bowling tactic that RCB followed was to use Washington Sundar up top in the powerplay, where he has been extremely economical, going at about 4 RPO. But this wasn’t the case in this match as Sundar wasn’t thrown the ball till the 9th over, probably because that Agarwal and Rahul are both good players of spin and were in great form. Another mistake from VK was choosing Siraj for the crucial 17th over, even when your designated death over bowler Udana, had 3 overs still left in the bag, and the fact that Siraj went for 20 runs, almost sealed the match, which was almost handed back to RCB by the kings, just to snatch it in the last ball. 3. Gayle not opening... yet delivers When we think of Gayle, it is always at the top, coming to open the innings, he has done this all throughout his career. He has opened in 388 of the 397 innings that he has played, which is a staggering 98%. So when the regular pairing of Rahul and Mayank came out to open for Kings, it was surprising that the Universe Boss will not be opening an innings, given that he was fit. But Gayle did not disappoint on his return to the playing 11 for the first time this season, as he made the no.3 position his own, scoring a half century and almost taking his team home until he was ran out. It would be really interesting to see if the KXIP think tank continue with playing Gayle at the no.3 position or would move him back up to open the innings. 4. Punjab almost Choke again Chasing a 172 for victory, the King’s were well in control of their chase, with Mayank, Rahul and Gayle being in great form. By the end of the 17th over where Siraj conceded 20 runs, the match looked dead and buried, with 11 runs required of the last 18 balls with 9 wickets in hand, and well set pair of Rahul and Gayle at the center, with both having completed their half centuries. But KXIP once again made a mockery of themselves, as the almost let the match slide from their hands, as Morris and Udana bowled a very tight 18th and 19th over conceding just 4 and 5 runs respectively. With 2 required off the last over, VK threw the ball to Chahal, who bowled brilliantly, tossing the ball up and Gayle and Rahul were unable to get the ball away, with 1 required off 2, a quick single attempt led to Gayle being run out and the thought of the previous matches came back to haunt Punjab. Finally Pooran came in and finished the match of by hitting a six, which was not too far from being caught at boundary by Morris. Both the teams were left wondering how the match came to such a situation, and for RCB, what could have been, if not those 3 wides in the 18th and 19th overs.But KXIP have to find way to finish off matches, especially when they are in such commanding positions. 5. The path ahead for both the teams RCB still sit at no.3 spot in the points table, and require 3 more wins from their remaining 6 matches to confirm their berth in the playoffs. They will be very wary of the fact that they can’t loose focus and slip up at this stage and would be looking to make a strong come back against a battered Rajasthan side on Saturday, although two straight losses to the last team on the points table would have hurt RCB’s moral a little. As far as Kings XI are concerned, they are very happy to record another win, although the chances of making it to the playoffs still looks bleak at best, as they are required to win all their remaining matches to get a sure place in the playoffs or hope for some miracle. But one thing is for certain, if they are to win more matches, they have to improve their finishing skills, both with ball and even more so while batting.

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