With four scores of 200 while batting first, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have been among the standout batting teams in IPL 2023. Shashwat Kumar looks at what has set them apart, and how, on a particularly important metric, they are a cut above the rest.

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Over the years, Chennai have cast themselves as one of the most belligerent batting outfits in the competition. They have scored 200 or more 27 times – the most by any team, and have relied on their batting might to win them four IPL titles.

In MS Dhoni, Chennai have had one of the best finishers. In their earlier years, Albie Morkel used to add muscle to that middle order, with Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja being more recent exponents.

Chennai have had several high-quality openers too. The likes of Brendon McCullum, Devon Conway, Dwayne Smith, Faf du Plessis, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shane Watson have all, at some point, excelled for the franchise.

Thus, it is fair to say that CSK start and end an innings well – but that is what most quality sides do. In IPL 2023, Chennai have not fared poorly on either count. However, where they have distinguished themselves is in the 11-to-16-over phase, especially when batting first.

CSK have prospered in overs 11-16 when batting first in IPL 2023

Of all teams this season, Chennai do not merely have the best run rate between overs 11 and 16 (9.78) while batting first. Punjab Kings, who are the second-best on this yardstick, score at 9.04 runs per over, followed by a cluster of teams.

Delhi Capitals have the worst numbers in this period, and are marooned at the foot of the points table.

It is no surprise that Chennai have reached 200 four times out of seven times they have batted first. In fact, they have only one score below 150, which came against Kolkata Knight Riders last Sunday.

This attacking approach between overs 11 and 16 has helped them post above-par totals on a frequent basis – an obvious requirement in an era when batting first is becoming the tougher gig in limited-overs cricket.

A perfect example was the home game against Delhi. Chennai managed only 167-8 but on a track that was turning square, which turned out to be more than enough. Chennai scored 59 runs in that phase; Delhi, in contrast, mustered only 32.

Forcing the opposition to rejig their plans

Bowling teams often control the opposition run rate better immediately after the powerplay. In the IPL, this is where the best spinners often bowl, with the field spread out. Allowing them to continue bowling in that fashion throughout the middle overs often rids the batting side of momentum.

On the other hand, aggressive batting in the middle overs forces the opposition to recall their designated death bowlers earlier than they had planned to, muddling with their plans and opening up more scoring opportunities.

CSK have capitalised on this to the tee. By generating momentum just before the onset of the death overs, they force bowling changes. As a result, they have scored at 11.92 in the final phase. Dhoni turning back the clock has aided their pursuit, but there is no denying how vital the foundation has been.

The Dube factor

One of Chennai’s key players in that phase this season has been Shivam Dube. He has scored 235 runs at a strike rate of 165, being dismissed five times. He has repaid the faith of his franchise, who have used him based on his strengths.

The only other batter to notch up 200 runs in this phase this campaign is Suryakumar Yadav, who has thrived particularly in chases. Mumbai Indians’ overall run rate in overs 11 to 16 has been the best this year, but that is down to multiple chases in excess of 200, three of them successful.

Chennai’s run rate between overs 11 and 16 while chasing is only 6.96, which can be explained by them having to chase more than 180 only once this season.

This is not a formula Chennai have stumbled upon recently either. Rather, it is an age-old concoction.

Suresh Raina, arguably the greatest Indian batter to have ever played in the IPL and Chennai’s batting lynchpin for several years, has a strike rate of 148 between overs 11 and 16 – quite incredible, considering that he played most of his cricket when the middle overs were looked upon as a period of rebuilding and consolidation.

Among those with 500 runs in overs 11 to 16, Raina has the 13th-best strike rate. The top 15 also features three other Chennai players – Dube, Hussey and Watson – illustrating that CSK’s excellence this season is only a continuation of what they have been doing historically.

At the time of writing, Chennai sit second in this season, with firm control over their destiny in the group stage. If they were to win their final league fixture, they would qualify without any hassle, and might even have a shot at a top-two finish.

And if they do get to the playoffs, expect them to continue targeting the 11-to-16-over phase, especially if they bat first. After all, that is what has set them apart in IPL 2023, and that is what makes them such a dangerous outfit when setting a total.