The one major factor that was expected to affect teams this Indian T20 league is starting to make a profound influence already at the halfway stage of the tournament. The pitches are getting slower and slower and the high scores are being replaced by par totals that are defended by teams.

In the 30th match of the season between Delhi and Rajasthan, we saw a prime example of this as Delhi made 161 runs batting first. They scored just 32 runs in the last five overs with the overs from Jaydev Unadkat and Kartik Tyagi showing that hitting the older ball was harder.

In response, Rajasthan seemed to be cruising in the run-chase as they made 81/2 in nine overs. Tushar Deshpande, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel then pulled things back for Delhi. Spin in the middle overs with pacers capable of hitting the deck or taking the pace off the ball has worked wonders for teams and Delhi reaped the rewards for some tight bowling.

Between overs 9 and 16, Delhi leaked just 44 runs at just over six runs per over, while picking up three wickets. The middle overs phase literally put too much pressure on Rajasthan and they once again had to leave too much for their superstar Rahul Tewatia.

The major stat that could come up from this game is how Delhi killed the Rajasthan ploy in the death overs by leaking just 25 runs in the last five overs while picking up three wickets. But Delhi had laid the platform for this in the middle overs, perhaps knowing fully well that Rajasthan don’t score as quickly in the middle overs phase.

A look at Rajasthan’s scoring rate on an over by over basis before the Delhi game gives an idea of how they meander along in the middle overs.

Over Rajasthan
1 8.14
2 4.29
3 7.71
4 8.86
5 7.57
6 7.43
7 8.43
8 8.93
9 7.57
10 9.29
11 7.57
12 6.29
13 6.43
14 5.86
15 8.23
16 9.43
17 10.71
18 12.14
19 12.81
20 13.45

The 9-15 over phase they have is one of the worst in the league this season and yet again against Delhi, this was on display. Today, they made just 38 runs in these five overs and lost three wickets. Trying to make up in the death does not always work, especially against an attack like that of Delhi.

So why have Rajasthan struggled? They have a formidable top-order consisting of Buttler, Steven Smith, Sanju Samson and now Ben Stokes. They are known to bat top-heavy too, yet after the Sharjah heroics by Samson, a top-order batsman hasn’t done much for them to influence a result.

Since those Sharjah games, Rajasthan have lost the cream of their top-order early and are always rebuilding in the middle overs phase:

39/3 vs KOL

31/3 vs BAN

12/3 vs MUM

82/5 vs DEL

26/3 vs HYD

97/4 vs RAJ

This leaves them no option but to look to maximise in the last few overs. With Rahul Tewatia’s two stunning performances, Rajasthan have stayed afloat, but the truth is the overseas top-order of Smith and Buttler haven’t fired. Stokes is still settling in, but aside from Archer, none of their overseas recruits have clicked consistently enough.

This has left a weak Indian middle-order to scrape them through and if not for Tewatia, they would likely be languishing below Chennai in the points table.

Feature image courtesy: / Indian T20 League