Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - CSK's late run-in with batting troubles. Since the resumption of the IPL in UAE, Moeen Ali has failed to be the reliable middle-overs batting link
Since the resumption of the IPL in UAE, Moeen Ali has failed to be the reliable middle-overs batting link
It was only the 13th over of the chase when KL Rahul hit his eighth six of the innings, and the teams exchanged post-game pleasantries. It was a weird evening, where Rahul trudged off knowing that his superlative effort – 98* off 42 – will eventually count for zilch, while MS Dhoni – who spent a lot of time in that second innings looking pensively at his bowlers, can shrug the feeling off and look ahead immediately.
PBKS became the third successive team to throw up an insurmountable hurdle in the face of CSK's seamless sprint since IPL's move to UAE – and more importantly, the second to poke genuine holes into their otherwise fluent batting. Just three days ago, Delhi Capitals provided a blueprint – attack the head, and the body crumbles – and PBKS lapped it up straightaway.
Arshdeep Singh is no Anrich Nortje when it comes to cranking up the pace, but he aced the rising bouncer a little outside the off-stump to Ruturaj Gaikwad, turning the CSK batsman over and inducing a false shot. For those taking notes, that was step one of sucking the intent out of CSK's batting plans – don't let Ruturaj get to the middle-overs where he can dominate against spin.
That affected CSK far more than it should've because Moeen Ali – the team's left-handed spin slayer meant to nullify leggies through the middle – has seen a severe dip in form. Moeen's arrival appeared to have galvanised a struggling CSK line-up during the India leg, but since the resumption in UAE, he has failed to be the reliable middle-overs batting link.
An average of 14 and a strike rate of 101.03 in UAE this season has sullied his fine start in India that culminated in a half-century against the defending champions, albeit in a defeat. Even if he had plans of finding redemption against Ravi Bishnoi and Harpreet Brar – two favourable match-ups for the England all-rounder – they were cut well short by Arsheep inside the PowerPlay.
PBKS' meticulous permutations-and-combinations-backed gameplay involved the quicks to be proactive in attack after Rahul won the toss, and they responded perfectly by troubling CSK with short-pitched bowling. It came off really well, considering CSK were pinned to the floor at 30/2 in 6 overs, and Chris Jordan made further incisions with the dismissals of Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu.
“We couldn't find a method to get any fluency into our batting,” Fleming said. “Right from the start, the players were trying to find the best ways to take the bowling on but it was very good, and it [pitch] probably was a little bit slow… maybe a little bit variable. So getting the pace of the wicket and then trying to find the tempo to create a score. We just came up short. And whenever we get close, we lose a wicket. It was a very stunted effort in the first innings to keep us below par.”
After Rayudu's exit in the ninth over, CSK added just 44 runs off 45 deliveries – the crux of the recent batting troubles that they've run into. CSK's death-overs expertise with the bat this season comes as a soothing balm to their mid-innings troubles, but could yet prove inconsequential, like it did today (CSK smashed 48 off last 24 balls), and cost them dearly in a knockout situation.
Another matter of concern heading into the playoffs is the fact that both of CSK's underwhelming batting efforts came in games where they've had to bat first and understand the pace of the treacherous UAE pitches. With the knockouts also expected to be played on similar surfaces, batting first poses to be a potential Achilles Heel for Dhoni's side.
“You have to be concerned when you lose three games in a row. Batting first… coming grips with setting a total. It's been a little bit tricky going around the venues and finding the target scores – it's not just us, but most teams really. So there is a challenge to try and find a better batting tempo when you're batting first, and get a competitive total on the board,” Fleming said.
Fleming chose not to read too much into this ‘three-game blip', a luxury he could afford because of how incredible CSK's run has been this season. Behind closed doors, there are no worry lines, only fine-tuning, if at all, between now and the next couple of days. For the other title contenders though, there's a hint of a flaw to beat down on in games that matter the most.