One of the key statistic heading into the blockbuster Saturday opener between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi is the former's 10-6 win-loss record against MS Dhoni's men in the last seven IPL seasons making it the only team to have a positive winning record against the three-time champions. And one of the key reason behind their lead in the head-to-head tie has been their unbeaten record against Chennai in IPL 2019. To beat Chennai once in an IPL season is commendable, to beat them four times including twice at Chepauk and all happening in the same season is simply inexplicable.
The domination in 2019 made Mumbai the first IPL team to beat Chennai four times in a row after their win against the Yellow Army in the first Qualifier, with the streak going back to April 28, 2018. Mumbai emulated the result in the nail-biting summit clash of IPL 2019. The four-time IPL winners now stand on the verge of making it six in a row in Abu Dhabi and ahead of their 31st meeting on the field we take a look at how Mumbai tamed Chennai last season.
Chennai Super Kings are perpetual slow starters in an IPL game. They had averaged just 38.65 runs in the powerplays last season, the lowest by any team last season. But against Mumbai Indians, they struggled immensely in the powerplays. In 2019, Chennai scored at almost a run-a-ball rate against Mumbai while losing wickets every seven balls. Chennai's powerplay scores were 34/3, 40/3, 32/3 and 53/1 against Mumbai last season.
With CSK filled with right-hand batters, left-arm bowling has been a key weapon for Mumbai last season. At Wankhede, in their first encounter in 2019, where the pitch aids pacers more than spinners, Mumbai used left-arm pacer Jason Behrendorff alongside Lasith Malinga in the powerplays and the Aussie returned with two wickets in two overs. In Chennai, where the next two matches were played, Krunal Pandya was used in the powerplays and conceded runs at a tick over four while picking two crucial wickets.
Mumbai, on the other hand, scored at 7.25 runs per over in the powerplays losing wickets every 12 balls.
Choking MS Dhoni in the middle
Despite Dhoni being among the top run-getters against Mumbai in IPL history, he struggled to score during the middle-overs last season, scoring at only 4.3 runs per over while being dismissed twice. In three matches, his scores during the middle overs were 12 (19), 2 (8), 14 (12). One of the key reason has been the deployment of spinners. Dhoni managed only seven runs off 17 balls against leg-spinner Rahul Chahar last season and scored five off five balls against Krunal Pandya. Meanwhile, Dhoni also struggled against Hardik, managing only five runs off nine balls while falling once.
Cutting that flourish at the end
With Dhoni's innings being cut off ahead of the death overs, Chennai lacked depth in the batting during the final four overs. Against Mumbai, they scored at 8.3 runs per over while losing wickets every nine balls.