As the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 heads into its final few matches, teams are finding that the highly preferred middle overs are not as easy to score in as before. Teams have been trying to outsmart one another during the middle phase of the game, but with a fair amount of cricket played on the pitches, scoring has become more challenging, particularly against spin-bowling. The trend shows that opposing teams are now targeting spinners during the middle overs while resorting to different kinds of batters who can prove efficient on slow pitches.
Last Tuesday’s match between Lucknow Super Giants and Mumbai Indians is a prime example. Mumbai Indians finished the Powerplay at 58 for no loss, chasing 177. Krunal Pandya was slammed for two boundaries in the 11th over, but Lucknow Super Giants conceded just 12 runs in the next three overs bowled by Pandya and Ravi Bishnoi. Mumbai Indians kept playing catch-up and eventually lost by five runs.
Teams are relying on batters at different positions to breach the dominance of spinners during the middle overs to make up for the lessened scoring rate. One of the strategies of Chennai Super Kings is to give Shivam Dube a free rein, as he has a strike rate of 172.64 against spin bowling this season, and hits almost a fifth of the balls faced for sixes. Similarly, Jason Roy, KKR opener, is another spinner basher with an overall strike rate of 231.81 who has hit ten sixes in 44 balls.
Additionally, Sanju Samson and Glenn Maxwell are not holding back on the big shots in the middle overs, making spinners return expensive spells. In this season, 64% of all the runs scored in the middle overs have come off spinners—the highest of any IPL season ever, opposite to how it was in 2008, where seamers conceded 61% of the runs in overs 7-15.
However, in the last five matches, the middle overs run rate has swung wildly. In the match between Gujarat Titans and Sunrisers Hyderabad, it rose to 9.88, whereas when CSK was stalled by KKR’s slower bowlers, it plummeted to 4.44. This trend shows that scoring is becoming difficult, especially with the bowlers, and additional factors such as dew and sluggish pitches are affecting the outcome of the games.
With the pitches wearing out in the last month of the cricket season, this trend is only set to become stronger in the final few matches, and batters may continue to struggle a bit after a great start to their middle-overs strategy. However, the bowlers certainly won’t be complaining now.