Last five matches (most recent first): W-L-L-L-L | L-L-L-L-W
These horror runs, particularly to close out a season, would typically put teams out of a tournament. Instead, they belong to two of the three entrants into the IPL 2020 playoffs: Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
In what was a scrappy affair for large parts, both DC and RCB squeezed their way through to the final week of the competition – the losing side meeting its own requirement to stay ahead of Kolkata Knight Riders on net run rate. A couple of weeks ago, you would’ve thought that this will be a crunch contest to ascertain who gets the all-important top-two finish – and it was – except the two competitors, in the course of these last two weeks, had gone spectacular to scratchy and from seemingly unstoppable to infuriatingly unconvincing.
Nine matches into the season, Delhi Capitals were the best bowling side, by a distance: They were the only team conceding less than eight runs per over, and were the most frequent wicket-takers in the competition too (strike rate 17.1). Their scoring rate, too, was second only to MI. At the same stage, RCB’s numbers weren’t league-leading, but theirs was a campaign standing out for the situations from which they were eking out results – inducing an SRH collapse of 32/8 in their opener, chasing down 35 in the last two overs against RR, winning a Super Over versus MI.
Counting only the last five league stage games, DC rank eighth in terms of run rate, economy rate, batting average, and bowling average. The wheels have come undone, spectacularly.
The Capitals’ scoring rate slid from 8.86 to 7.08 in these five games, and their batsmen averaged only 18.75 runs per wicket (down from 31.90 in the first nine matches); in a phase where only one other team was leaking more than eight runs an over, Delhi saw their economy rate shoot from 7.96 to 9.03, and each wicket they took cost them 40 runs (22.67 in the first nine).
RCB’s batting, meanwhile, went from limp to lousy – the last time they touched 170 was on 17 October, against RR.
The drastic slides in form and fortune have hit the individuals too, and the performances of their key players are a concern for both DC and RCB heading into the playoffs.
Virat Kohli had crossed 40 five times in the first 10 games while making 365 runs; in the last four outings, he’s only once crossed 30 while making 95 – and an already middling strike rate 126 has plummeted further to under 108.
After smashing 285 runs at a strike rate of 190 (with four half-centuries) in the first 10, AB de Villiers has returned 113 runs at a sedate clip of 121.50 (highest score 39) in the last four; he’s also gone from hitting a boundary once every 3.7 balls to one in every 8.5.
Chris Morris’ dream start despite an injury delay has fizzled away: From nine wickets in his first five appearances at a stellar economy of 5.00, to two wickets in the last four games while leaking 9.42 per over.
The RCB pace attack, in general, has gone off the boil. Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, and Isuru Udana had claimed 18 wickets between them in RCB’s first 10 matches (economy 8.63); ever since, they’ve picked a combined haul of five wickets (economy 9.96).
DC’s waning powers with the ball, arguably, have proved more costly, and no individual more so than Kagiso Rabada. After a fiery first nine games that yielded 19 wickets, the South African has added six in the last five; his economy’s been hit too, up from 7.68 to 9.00.
R Ashwin’s first seven scalps had cost his team 22.57 runs per wicket; he’s only added three in the last five outings at 47.67. Axar Patel’s wickets have almost entirely dried up, and his frugality is also on the downswing: from seven wickets at 5.59 per over, to one wicket at 7.69.
The batting numbers, however, make for more sorry reading for the Capitals. Since the start of their 10th game, DC have got only 264 runs out of Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, and Marcus Stoinis – combined average 16.50, combined strike rate 95.30.
The decline in the run-scoring of these four has been papered over, somewhat, by the excellent form of Shikhar Dhawan. But if you’ve got four of your first-choice top-six batsmen struggling to score at a run-a-ball in the business end of a tournament, odds are you’re going to find yourself behind the curve.
Halfway through the league stage of IPL 2020, the Capitals and the Royal Challengers had both found themselves level on five wins and 10 points each with Mumbai Indians. By the time every team had played nine games, Delhi had even taken the lead on 14 points, while Bangalore remained level with the holders on 12.
By the end of it, MI entered their last two matches aware that even two losses wouldn’t take the top spot away from them. If momentum is the telling tonic to IPL glory, we might as well not have the playoffs – because there’s only one team, really, that’s carrying any real dose of it with them right now.
But hey, we’ve seen stranger things this year!
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