The Pythagoras of finishing in IPL 2018

“What’s important in a chase is to know which bowler has how many left and who the captain will bowl when and you play accordingly.” Here’s MS Dhoni lucidly laying down the rudimentary science of a run chase, after he architect a classical Dhoni finishing-act at Chinnaswamy on Wednesday night.

It comes across as simple maths—break the target down, formulate small over-specific targets, identify the bowlers to hit (or not), and which batsman to take on which bowler. Though in reality it’s much more difficult to achieve.

Hence, Dhoni gave a disclaimer; “You will win some, you’ll lose some.” To further point, it didn’t quite work the other night in Mohali, but it did in Chinnaswamy on Wednesday.

36 runs of Dhoni’s 70 came in the arc between the long on and square leg. Four of his seven sixes came that way.

The bowlers at Kohli’s disposal after the 12th
Yuzvendra Chahal (1), Corey Anderson (3), Washington Sundar (3), Pawan Negi (2), Mohammad Siraj (3).

13th over: 105 from 48 balls
Yuzvendra Chahal was turning the ball square, and hence negotiated with caution. Clearly the best bowler of day on either side, but with just one more over in kitty, Dhoni and Rayudu were satisfied rotating strike off Chahal, resulting in six singles and a wide. Kohli’s logic in exhausting his overs might have been that he could prise out a wicket. An aggressive ploy that bit him back.

14th over: 99 from 42
Pawan Negi doesn’t have big turn or variation. So Dhoni goes ballistic. Two sixes by Dhoni set the tone of the 19-run over, wrapped up with Rayudu’s six. Negi was clearly on Dhoni’s radar. Kohli might have been tempted by the nature of the surface—even Jadeja was spinning big.

15th over: 80 from 36
Mohammad Siraj can slip in the wide yorkers. Hence the caution. Siraj hardly bowls in Dhoni’s preferred swing-the-ball-through-the-line slot. So Dhoni gives Rayudu the strike, and Rayudu, a more authoritative off-side player, flat-bats him over cover. Just nine runs were scored. Siraj had three overs in his bag, so Kohli had to bowl him now than later.

16th over: 71 from 30
Anderson, with his friendly pace and short-ball obsession, was ideal fodder. They tried so hard to hit him out of the park that the Kiwi got off with a couple of short balls. But Rayudu, reprieved off the third ball, hit the last two balls for sixes, taking the plunder to 16 runs.

17th over: 55 from 24
Siraj was the last potential threat, they chose to shelve the big hits. A quiet over, four singles, a couple and a cheeky little cut past third man by Dhoni, taking the toll to 10 runs. But with just another over for Siraj, Dhoni sensed Anderson would bowl the other two.

18th over: 45 off 18
Another gift-wrapped Anderson over, Dhoni might have thought. Rayudu was run out, but 15 runs were smacked of the over. Kohli had two options: Washington Sundar or Anderson, but Kohli went for Anderson’s experience, bizarre as he not exactly reputed for his death-bowling prowess.

19th over: 30 off 12
Siraj, but here Dhoni and Bravo know they can’t afford to play him out. The young seamer was trying to pitch outside the off-stump, envisioning to prevent Dhoni hitting through the line, where he’s most dangerous. Dhoni was anticipating it and had picked his spots on the off-side, and he was in the right position to blunt him over point, the only boundary of that over. But three wides, a brace and two singles kept their chase on course.

20th over: 14 off six
Anderson’s lack of variations meant Dhoni and Bravo were confident Two short ball bargained 10 runs for Bravo before Dhoni smeared Anderson over long on to accomplish the chase.

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