How the anatomy of a T20 chase is changing | Crickit

How the anatomy of a T20 chase is changing

Apr 24, 2024 06:44 PM IST

Batters are now aiming to average two-three boundary hits per over for longer periods

Six years ago, Chennai Super Kings were faced with the task of chasing 197 by Kings XI Punjab. The start was decent, CSK got to 53/2 at the end of the powerplay before MS Dhoni predictably decided to play the waiting game and take the chase to the wire. He scored 32 off the first 26 balls while the asking rate climbed from just under 10 to nearly 17 after the 16th over. This is when Dhoni decided to cut loose, adding 47 in the next 18 balls but eventually CSK fell four short of the target.

The way Marcus Stoinis helped Lucknow Super Giants take down CSK’s 210 is symbolic of how the anatomy of T20 chases is slowly changing.(AFP)
The way Marcus Stoinis helped Lucknow Super Giants take down CSK’s 210 is symbolic of how the anatomy of T20 chases is slowly changing.(AFP)

For much of the last 15 years, T20 cricket was used to the idea of teams consolidating starts, preserving wickets in the middle overs and backing themselves for a massive slog-overs onslaught. Dhoni won many matches this way, as has Virat Kohli. But the way Marcus Stoinis helped Lucknow Super Giants take down CSK’s 210 is symbolic of how the anatomy of T20 chases is slowly changing. Pacing the chase, sometimes as early as the 12th or 13th over of the innings, is becoming key to taking down big scores.

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Yes, Lucknow Super Giants still needed 17 off the last over, a feat by itself at a fortress like the MA Chidambaram Stadium. But a six and a four off the first two balls meant Stoinis had chopped down the ask to a very gettable seven off the last four balls. But key to keeping the asking rate within reach was to average at least two boundary hits per over.

“Our thoughts were pretty clear,” elaborated Deepak Hooda, who remained unbeaten on a six-ball 17. “We needed 14 runs an over and we were just looking to hit the gaps.”

Simple really. Though it meant the application had to be spot on without losing a shred of nerve. Starting with a required rate of 10.55, LSG saw it climb to 13.66 when Nicholas Pooran entered the scene after 11 overs. Next over, 14.12 and the two slowly got down to work. A six and a four in the 13th over, repeating it in the 15th over, doing one hit better in the 16th—LSG never let the required rate soar over 15 or 16.

“It is not just go, go, go,” said Stoinis, who ended up with a record 124*. “It was ebb and flow. There were some bowlers we targeted, some against whom we were cautious.”

Yet the goal was achieved with minimum fuss. LSG had 18 boundary hits—seven of them sixes—in the last eight overs that not only added 86 runs (out of the 113 required) but also ensured that the risk was kept at a manageable minimum of two balls per over. Having Pooran and Hooda helped to a fair degree but such chases can’t also be pulled off without the kind of belief and clarity Stoinis exhibited.

“From the inside you are always structuring,” he said. “You are liking some bowlers, not liking others much.” And hence the minor tweaks—letting Pooran turn on the heat because it’s his thing, or taking charge in the last over because till then no one had played Mustafizur Rahman as well as Stoinis.

No IPL season has been as lopsided towards the batters as this one. And for good reason too. Addition of impact players has freed up the top-order batting, leading to better returns in the middle overs. Teams also no longer consider the fall of the top three-four wickets as a setback anymore.

“T20 cricket has changed in the last couple of years,” said LSG captain KL Rahul after their sensational victory. “170-180 does not always cut it. You have to go harder in the powerplay. The Impact player gives you depth and that gives you more freedom.”

But even this freedom is anchored by a strain of sensibility. Batters nowadays back themselves to get 20 off the last over, but would rather not leave it so late. Spreading out the boundary hits over a longer phase thus is being slowly adopted as a better approach, making even 200-plus scores unsafe these days. And no one has championed this method better than Jos Buttler, who has hit two hundreds in as many successful chases this season.

The win against KKR—where Rajasthan Royals chased 223—is a fine example, though it came under greater extenuating circumstances as Buttler was batting with the tail from the 18th over. Thirteen runs at the cost of two wickets in three overs had pushed the required run rate to 16 after the 14th over. But Rajasthan Royals meticulously watered down the target to nine off the last six balls, thanks to Buttler taking the lead in garnering 14 boundary hits across five overs. It was a tense finish no doubt, but with lesser apprehension because Buttler had stayed till the end to soak up the pressure, just like Stoinis did.

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