On the evidence so far, it hardly seems so. Eight wins in nine games, 16 points in the kitty, and a playoff spot practically guaranteed already, with just over half the league phase done, the Titans are having a debut season and then some.
At the start of the season, what Titans were doing seemed miraculous. But, by definition almost, a miracle is not a very repeatable event. And certainly not on a weekly basis. What seems extraordinary to those watching outside, has been co-opted into the Titans’ normal sphere. They have won against steep asking rates, they have won defending totals, they have won when not scoring enough, they have won when conceding too many for comfort…the only common thread, of course, is Titans’ winning.
They will be up against Punjab Kings. On paper, a team that can play a brand of cricket as exciting as the Titans, but who have won four and lost five of their nine games. The wins have been impressive, but the losses have been equally dispirited-looking. The Kings will need a lot more cohesive and consistent performance if they are to challenge the Titans. In other words, they’ll need their strength on paper to match what the Titans have done on the field.
What’s their form been?
The Titans are in such a comfortable position, that all they need now is one win in their remaining five games and they will almost certainly be assured of a playoff spot. Not that they will be thinking of anything other than winning this next game, and then the next one after that, and then the one after that, until the tournament ends. They know, of course, that they are the form team, but the quickest way to watch form slip away is to overthink it too much.
The Kings have had an up-and-down tournament so far. Off late, it’s been more down than up with three defeats in their last four games. They would have believed they should have won at least one of those games. Their batting approach of boom or bust hasn’t perhaps yielded the dividends they wanted, although given the kind of players they have, they will always remain a dangerous team.
Titans Trump Card
Here’s a stat. Despite their power-packed batting line-up, the Kings have the worst strike rate against spinners this IPL, with just 107.58. And it’s not because they have managed to preserve wickets against spinners so that pacers can be taken down either. Their average against spin this season is 20.50, the second lowest among the ten teams.
A weakness against spin confronted by the world’s greatest white-ball spinner: it’s a match made to order for Rashid Khan the bowler to re-emerge. Not that Rashid has disappeared anywhere. He had one off-day while bowling, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but even if it seems like his bowling hasn’t quite been there, if you go through each game’s scorecards, you’ll notice that Rashid has rarely made anything other than a positive impact. If the wickets haven’t come, he’s kept the runs in check, and the wickets he has taken have invariably been at crunch moments.
The Kings’ batters haven’t had much success against Rashid in the past either. Shikhar Dhawan has 41 for four dismissals in 44 balls, Mayank Agarwal has 23 for one in 23 balls, Liam Livingstone has bashed 24 runs in 15 balls but been out thrice too. Rashid hasn’t bowled to Jonny Bairstow in a T20 match yet, although he must have bowled plenty to Bairstow in the Sunrisers nets.
- Of the last ten matches at the DY Patil stadium, four have been won by the team batting first.
- Punjab Kings began IPL 2022 by chasing down a target of 206 at this venue, but in their last game here, were bowled out for 151.