Middle overs in the limited-overs game are often considered as a stage to provide a platform for the power hitters to go after the bowlers in the slog overs. The run rate takes a dip after the powerplays and before the death overs even in T20s (overs 7-15). However, teams that tend to maintain a good run rate in the middle overs tend to dominate the games more often than not.
For a successful T20 team, a very essential but underrated requirement is the steady run-rate in the middle phase of the innings. Some teams come with an approach where they try to lose minimum wickets in the powerplays so that the set batsmen can take advantage of the middle overs. The middle phase more often than not drives the game in the T20s and is often considered a phase where a game is won or lost, as teams not only need to maintain a steady flow of runs but also safeguard the wickets for the death overs.
Here we look at some of the prolific batsmen in the middle overs across the last two seasons [minimum 50 balls faced in overs from 7 to 15]:
The Boundary Hitters:
There have been 15 batsmen in the last two seasons who hit a boundary once in every six balls they face in the middle overs.
- Nicholas Pooran has been the most prolific boundary hitter in the middle overs, hitting a boundary every 3.44 balls. He is followed by Shane Watson (3.80), Sunil Narine (3.93), Andre Russell (4.38), Moeen Ali (4.42).
- While most of the batsmen in the list are middle-order batsmen, Shane Watson, Sunil Narine, Chris Gayle, Jonny Bairstow, Shikhar Dhawan, and Jos Buttler are some of the openers who have done well in the middle overs as well. These batsmen have gone on to harm the oppositions once set. The frequency at which they hit the boundaries also makes it easier for the incoming batsmen by allowing them time to settle in.
The busy batsmen:
One of the major factors that determine how well someone is doing in the middle overs is the ability to minimize the dot ball percentage.
- David Warner has been the busiest batsman in the middle overs, with a dot ball percentage as low as 18.05%, followed by Prithvi Shaw (20.18%), Aaron Finch (22.06%), Shane Watson (22.07%) and Mayank Agarwal (23.00%).
- Most batsmen in the list are openers, which implies to the fact that being set from the beginning helps in churning out runs in middle overs. The ones coming in to bat in this phase tend to take time to settle in and hence more dot ball percentage. The exceptions include AB de Villiers and Rishabh Pant, who also happen to have a good frequency of boundaries in the middle overs.
- The likes of Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, and Colin de Grandhomme neither have a good strike rate nor have a low dot ball percentage.
- Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, and Sunil Narine maintain a terrific strike rate despite having a high dot ball percentage, implying their boundary hitting capacity.
- Shane Watson, David Warner, and Prithvi Shaw have a high strike rate as well as low dot ball percentage, meaning they do not create undue pressure on the batsmen at the other end. These are the kind of batsmen who tend to cause immense damage to the opposition if not dismissed early in the innings.
The Consistent Ones:
- Hardik Pandya has been exceptional with the bat in the middle overs and has maintained a terrific average.
- Most of the batsmen with a 50-plus average in middle overs are the designated finishers for their side, with Bairstow, Warner, and Williamson being the exceptions. All three of them have played long innings and seen their team through in the last two seasons.
- There have been 13 batsmen with an average above 40 and strike rate above 130 in the middle overs in the last two seasons.
- Shane Watson has proved to be one of the best batsmen in the middle overs, with a strike rate in excess of 180 and an average close to 50. Moreover, he has the second-best boundary frequency and fourth-least dot ball percentage.
- The likes of MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, and Riyan Parag have a very good average but have a lot of scope for improving their strike rate.
- Nicholas Pooran and Hardik Pandya have also been terrific in the middle phase, despite having a dot ball percentage on a relatively higher side.