Analysis: Chasing in PSL 2019

The Pakistan Super League (PSL) is becoming a worldwide spectacle and is replacing likes of Indian Premier League (IPL) and Big Bash League as the best domestic league, albeit slowly.

The PSL is benefiting Pakistan greatly. Not only does the domestic league provide a center-stage for all the local talent to showcase their abilities but is also repairing the nation’s image on international stage following an attack on Sri Lankan team back in 2009.

Beyond this, the PSL has identified a pattern, which in the truest sense of the word, has been historic.

Currently, 81% of the matches in PSL 2019 have been won by the team which has opted to bat second; this is the highest figures for any individual season ever for any domestic league (which includes Bangladesh Premier League, Big Bash League, Caribbean Premier League, Indian Premier League, Pakistan Super League, T20 Blast).

The PSL 2019 has identified a wider trend that was not brought to the limelight; the teams have found much more success while chasing the game than the other way around. Of course the progress has been gradual but it is being adopted across the globe.

This figure below reaffirms the claims made above; it depicts that in the last four years, the percentage of teams chasing the game have won more games in the top six domestic leagues than ever before.

Analyzing the PSL 2019 more carefully, we see that winning the toss was absolutely crucial. Total of 26 matches have been played thus far and only once did a team decide to bat first after winning the toss; it was Karachi Kings’ skipper Imad Wasim against Multan Sultans in 2nd match of the tournament.

This means that 25 out of 26 times, captains have opted to chase first and here is how their win percentage looks like:

There is no denying the fact that it has created a concerning bias in favor of the toss-winning team. To further prove this point, let’s compare the current points table with an imaginary points table, which is based entirely on allocating two-points to the toss winning team and nothing else.

Of course there are a few changes but the bottom line is that same teams would be heading to the knockout phase in both scenarios, which is a bit surprising irrespective of how you look at it.

Current PSL Points Table PSL Points Table Based on Toss
Teams Points Teams  Points
Quetta Gladiators 14 Karachi Kings 12
Peshawar Zalmi 12 Quetta Gladiators 12
Islamabad United 8 Peshawar Zalmi 12
Karachi Kings 8 Islamabad United 8
Lahore Qalandars 6 Multan Sultans 4
Multan Sultans 4 Lahore Qalandars 4

In an interview with Ramiz Raja after scoring a phenomenal 91* against Peshawar Zalmi, Shane Watson opened up about batting second and where his preference lie. He said:

T20 is a funny game and when you are batting first, you never know how much is going to be enough. It is a shorter format and you cannot restrict the opposition once they start playing fiercely. It is much easier to build an inning once you are aware of the required run-rate, which is why I would rather bat second.

It is worth mentioning that Quetta Gladiators, like other teams, also struggled when they lost the toss. In fact, Quetta won all 7 of their matches while chasing and losing both where they had to bat first.

Did You Know?

The high-quality of the bowling attacks have contributed to a scoring rate of just 7.68 RPO across the tournament – the slowest scoring rate for any Major League season since the 2016 BPL.

Apart from Peshawar Zalmi, each franchise relies heavily on their spinners. Likes of Fawad Ahmed and Sandeep Lamichhane have proved that spin remains a key threat in T20s. However, batsmen have operated much more care in the second innings. Here’s how:

Middle Order False Shot Percentage
Batting First Chasing
19.3% 13.7%

The spinners, while bowling in first innings have picked up a wicket after every 19 balls in the middle overs. While chasing? That’s a wicket after every 29 deliveries! That indeed is a huge gap, which circles back to the point which Shane Watson made about finding it easier to build an inning while batting second.

This trend, however, has been found out. Perhaps we might see a change with the change in venue as PSL moves to Pakistan from tomorrow. The teams will now scramble to reverse this trend and it will likely disappear or perhaps, the change in venue will force them to opt for different approach altogether. We have to wait and see!

Sports Analyst & Head of Sports Desk.

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