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How Mumbai Indians mastered the art of the match-up in T20 cricket

CricViz analysis featured in Tim Wigmore’s Cricket Nerd email, focussing on how Mumbai Indians have used matchups to succeed in T20 cricket

CricViz have an agreement in place to provide The Telegraph newspaper in the UK with advanced data analysis and visualisations, delivered to their team of award-winning journalists via our team of analysts.

This week, Tim Wigmore looked ahead to Saturday’s IPL opener as Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings lock horns. Wigmore noted how Mumbai have used their squad intelligently to exploit positive matchups to consistently get the better over their great rivals. He writes, ‘Mumbai’s ascendancy is a window into how T20 games are won and lost. In T20, more than any other format of the game, sides can be of essentially equal strength and yet, through generating favourable match-ups and targeting their opponents’s relative weaknesses, one team can have the edge on the field. So has been the case for Mumbai against Chennai.’

As the below graphic shows, the otherwise imperious Super Kings have struggled to beat Mumbai in recent seasons, recording a win percentage of just 35% in matches against them since 2013.

Wigmore goes on to show how Mumbai have taken advantage of Chennai’s right-hand heavy batting lineup, stacking their spin attack with bowlers who can turn it away from the right-hander, knowing they will consistently be able to build pressure without having their rhythm disrupted by a left-hander. Indeed, Mumbai have played as many as three spinners whose primary delivery is to turn it away from the right-hander, as Wigmore notes, ‘Left-armer Krunal Pandya opened in the last three games against Chennai, getting openers Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis out once apiece. In the middle overs, Rahul Chahar bowled immaculate leg breaks: in four games against Chennai last season, he conceded just 4.28 an over. Revealingly, left-arm spinner Anukul Roy’s sole game for Mumbai last season was in Chennai, providing a third option turning the ball away from right-handers.’

Wigmore also points out that Mumbai’s exceptional ability with the ball at the death helps to clip Chennai’s wings, given that the men in yellow place so much stock in batsmen such MS Dhoni to get them over the line in tough chases. Wigmore explains, ‘Mumbai’s attack has also been uniquely well-suited to neutering Chennai at the death. With Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah, Mumbai have had two of the best death bowlers — arguably the best two — in T20 history. Since 2013, Chennai have lost a wicket at the death every 12 balls against Mumbai, denying Dhoni and the rest of the middle order a chance to finish the job. Chennai’s batting approach has been predicated on Dhoni’s preternatural ability to judge run chases; more than any other IPL team, Mumbai’s attack has been designed to prevent a final flourish.’

Similarly, Wigmore highlights how Mumbai’s batting at the top of the innings contributes to their success, noting that their wicket preservation in the first six overs is far superior to any of Chennai’s other opponents. As Wigmore explains, ‘In the field, Chennai’s approach has revolved around maintaining iron control in the middle overs. Mumbai have recognised how a sturdy Powerplay can counteract this approach. Since 2013, Mumbai have only averaged 44 runs per Powerplay against Chennai — but, crucially, they lose wickets one-quarter less frequently than any of CSK’s other opponents. With only one wicket down in the Powerplay and batsmen, often Rohit himself, set, Mumbai can then bat more comfortably against Chennai’s spinners.’

The two sides meet on Saturday in the first of 60 IPL matches. Follow all the action on Twitter @cricvizanalyst (English) and @Cricviz_Hindi (Hindi) as well as in the CricViz app, available for download on Apple (https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/cricviz/id1044644979) and Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cricvizmobile&hl=en_GB)

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