Bangalore had a great start to the Indian T20 League 2020 and despite the loss to Chennai on Sunday, skipper Virat Kohli was adamant that they were playing good and off days were bound to happen.
"We are playing really good cricket and you have to accept you will lose games here and there," Kohli said after Bangalore's loss. While this is fair enough, and there's reason to prove Bangalore have done quite well too, the one factor that's pegging them back bigtime is their middle overs batting.
It is in exactly this phase that Chennai hit them hard on Sunday. While Bangalore made just 35 runs for the loss of a wicket in the six overs after Powerplay, Chennai made 57 runs without losing a wicket.
More than the fact that Chennai made so much runs, the worrying bit is that Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, two of their best batters, were out in the middle when the rate of run-scoring went down drastically.
This isn't a one-off either. The middle overs have been quite a slump for Bangalore right through this season. Between overs 7 and 16, considered the middle overs phase in a T20 game, Bangalore have scored at a rate of 7.096 in this edition of the tournament. This is the worst by any team in this season.
The highest run-scorers in this phase - Mumbai - score at 8.71 runs per over. The sheer difference between them and Bangalore is enough to understand why Bangalore need to correct their approach in this phase.
Interestingly, the middle overs slump comes right after the Powerplay where they are the third-quickest run-scorers at 7.89 runs per over behind Punjab and Mumbai. In the death overs - the final four overs - Bangalore again score at 12.34 runs per over, the second-best after Mumbai.
With quite powerful, intent-driven phases before and after the middle overs, it is inexplicable that Bangalore choose to bat the way they do in the crucial period between overs 7 and 16.
What this leaves them with is too much onus on AB de Villiers to drive them to a massive total or a big run-chase in the final four overs, a plot filled with loopholes because despite the superhuman avatar he is seen as, de Villiers is still human and could fail too in the death overs like he did on Sunday. The slump then comes back to haunt them.
Rather, on Sunday, after the fall of Devdutt Padikkal's wicket immediately following the Powerplay, Bangalore could have sent Moeen Ali in. The England leftie is the quickest run-scorer in the middle overs since 2018 in the league (min 100 balls faced in this phase). With all of Chennai's spinners turning the ball into him as well, Moeen was a natural choice.
The fact that de Villiers also isn't at his fluent best against spinners turning the ball away and can turn up and smash pace with little turnaround time in the death makes the move to send him over Ali even more bizarre. If anything, it shows that Bangalore are comfortable scoring slowly in that phase. But it's a plan fraught with risks and leaves too much riding on de Villiers to produce a freak show in the death overs every time.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Bangalore