The Dallas leg of the group stage in the inaugural edition of Major League Cricket is complete, and what a week it's been! 6 top teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs at the Grand Prairie Stadium in front of the huge crowds who were eager to see their favorites perform on US soil.
In order of the points table, lets have a look at where the teams stand after week 1.
Texas Super Kings (2/3)
Having won 2 of the 3 games they have played, Texas are at the top of the points table. With 2 big wins and a very close loss, their net run rate is the highest amongst all teams in the tournament at the moment.
The Super Kings have a very versatile batting order. At the top, Devon Conway opens the batting alongside his captain, Faf Du Plessis. While Faf has failed to get going thus far, Conway has already notched up a couple of fifties and is the 2nd highest run scorer in the tournament. After that, Texas have Lahiru Milantha, Cody Chetty, and Millind Kumar. While Milantha looks to maximize the powerplay, Chetty and Milind are good at rebuilding an innings. David Miller is another big name in the side. Showing his destructiveness in the first game, Miller picked up the man of the match award for his blistering 61 from just 42 deliveries. DJ Bravo and Mitchell Santner are the 2 designated finishers for Texas. Santner has played a couple of nice cameos, while Bravo lit up Grand Prairie in the game against Washington, where he scored 76 not out from just 39 deliveries. Unfortunately for him and the Super Kings, Washington squeezed out a 6 run victory. Nevertheless, Bravo's heroics in that match will be remembered for a long time.
With the ball in hand, TSK have done well. On average, they have restricted their opposition to 137, which is well below par in this tournament. Mohammed Mohsin is the highest wicket taker in the tournament with 7 wickets under his belt. His leg spin has bamboozled batters in the middle overs and allowed Texas to be in control of the game going into the death. The other spinner, Mitchell Santner, hasn't had the best of tournaments with the ball in hand. He's been going at 8.56 an over and only has 1 wicket to show for it. For the pacers, Rusty Theron and Gerald Coetzee have done well up front, while DJ Bravo has been nailing his slower balls at the back end.
In the 3rd game that they played, Texas made some interesting changes to their XI. While he hadn't made too big of an impact, they dropped the experienced Lahiru Milantha. On top of that, they also replaced Coetzee in the side, who had been arguably their best bowler up until that game. Still trying to find their combination, it'll be interesting to see how the table toppers are able to do in Morrisville.
Seattle Orcas (2/2)
With 2 wins in 2 games, Seattle are the only undefeated team in the tournament. On top of this, they have an excellent net run rate as well, which could prove important going into the business end of the tournament. 2nd on the points table, the Orcas have done well with both bat and ball in hand.
The Seattle batting order comprises of the hard hitting Quinton De Kock at the top of the order. QDK has had a couple of poor outings scoring just 17 runs in the first 2 games. On the other hand, his opening partner, Nauman Anwar, has gotten off to two very good starts, though failed to convert either one of them into a big score. Nevertheless, he has ensured that one end is held up in the powerplay. The middle order is packed with quality players. Shehan Jayasuriya and Heinrich Klassen have ensured that a good base is created for the finishers to come in and provide the final touches in the Seattle innings. Speaking of finishers, Shimron Hetmyer and Imad Wasim have done a terrific job for the Orcas scoring a combined 102 runs at the back end.
The Orcas have been bowling extremely well. In such a high scoring tournament, they've managed to restrict both their oppositions to below 150. Additionally, in both the games, their entire bowling unit has chipped in. With everyone amongst the wickets, there's no over reliance on one or two players, which is always very helpful. The spin of Imad Wasim has done well in the powerplay. In both games, he's picked up a wicket in the first 6 overs, ensuring that Seattle get off to a good start. In the middle overs, Wasim is usually joined by Harmeet Singh from the other end. Singh has also done well for himself, picking up 3 wickets in 2 games. In the pace bowling department, captain Wayne Parnell is joined by Cameron Gannon and Andrew Tye. Gannon and Parnell bowling up front has really allowed Tye to bowl his 4 in the middle and death, which is where his strength lies. Seattle also have the option of going with Shehan Jayasuriya and Shubham Ranjane, if one of their front line bowlers is having an off day.
The Orcas have 3 big games left in Morrisville. They'll be up against TSK, LAKR, and MINY, all packed sides. With the way they're going, a top 2 finish is certainly on the cards for the Orcas, but they'll have to showcase their abilities against the 3 IPL franchises they're playing over the course of the next week.
San Francisco Unicorns (2/3)
The SF Unicorns won their game against LAKR to gain California supremacy, and also move up to 3rd on the points table. Winning 2 of their 3 games, the Unicorns have been impressive thus far.
With the bat in hand, SF are the only team to cross 200, and they've done it twice. Corey Anderson, after a scintillating 91 against NY, became the leading run scorer in the tournament. Matthew Wade and Shadab Khan aren't too far behind on that list, with both the players in the top 5. Not only are these players scoring a boatload of runs, but they're also playing quickly, which is essential in T20 Cricket. Wade has a SR of 176, while Anderson is at 173. Shadab, finishing the innings, is striking at 167. Allen, who opens alongside Wade, has an SR of 170. This brand of fearless Cricket is perhaps the reason why SF are able to put on these massive scores. The side is able to play so quickly because they also have the experience of Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis in the team. In the case of a collapse, those 2 will be able to rebuild the innings. Additionally, the Unicorns bat deep. Tajinder Dhillon and Chaitanya Bishnoi are also in the team, ensuring there is solid batting till number 8.
Bowling is the biggest weakness for this Unicorns team. In the 3 games they've played, SF have conceded 187, on average. Harris Rauf and Carmi Le Roux have been expensive in the powerplay. This means that the opposition has a really nice platform going into the middle overs. Shadab Khan and Chaitanya Bishnoi, the 2 spinners, have also been expensive, at times, but they are wicket taking options. Alongside them, SF have also used the pace of Liam Plunkett, Marcus Stoinis, and Corey Anderson in the middle and death. Plunkett, with 4 wickets to his name, is the leading wicket taker for the team, which shows how their bowling department really needs to step up in the remaining games.
SFU have got 2 big games in Morrisville, including one against the table toppers, TSK. Situated in the top half at the moment, one more win should seal SF's spot in the playoffs, especially with their good net run rate. While their batting has done well, SF need to improve their bowling. As the saying goes, batsmen win you games, but it's the bowlers who win you tournaments.
MI New York (1/3)
The joint most successful franchise in the IPL didn't quite get off to the start they were hoping for in MLC. While they did pick up a big win against LAKR, they have fallen short in front of both SFU and TSK.
The batting department hasn't quite fired the way New York would've liked. On average, NY lose 2 wickets in the powerplay, which subsequently puts pressure on the middle and lower order. Barring a 41 from Shayan Jahangir in the game against TSK, the domestic players have not had good outings with the bat in hand. Monank Patel and Steven Taylor have failed to get going and provide an impact for their team at the top. The power hitters, in the middle order, have had to do the bulk of the run scoring. Tim David has really stepped up, making 125 across 3 games, and rising to 3rd on the leading run scorers chart. All of this was done while maintaining a 180+ SR. Nicholas Pooran and captain Kieron Pollard have also hit a few 30s and 40s, finishing the innings off well for their side.
With the ball in hand, in the powerplay, Kagiso Rabada and Trent Boult have been brilliant. As the 2nd and 3rd leading wicket takers, respectively, both of them have put the opposition on the back foot from the get-go. After that, if NY want to continue with pace, they can turn to Ehsan Adil, Kieron Pollard, or Hammad Azam. While Azam hasn't gotten many opportunities with the ball in hand, Adil and Pollard have both done well, picking up 5 wickets between themselves. Rashid Khan is the lead spinner for the team. He missed the first 2 games due to international duty, but dove right into MLC after that and picked up the big wicket of Devon Conway in his first game. Steven Taylor is the part time spin bowling option that NY have opted for to go alongside Rashid. Sarabjit Ladda, another spinner, did play in the first game, but was dropped after one of his overs went for 29.
MI NY do have to address a few problems going into the Morrisville leg of this tournament. With the bowling attack they have, they should be able to go far, but NY really need their top order to step up with the bat in hand.
Washington Freedom (1/2)
The Freedom have had 2 very close encounters in this tournament. Losing the first and coming back in the second, they find themselves at 5th on the points table, but they have played one less game than most of the other teams.
Having a lot of all rounders in the side, Washington do bat deep. This allows the top order to really express themselves up front. Unfortunately for them, while some batters have gotten off to a good start, they haven't been able to play a big innings. There has only been one 35+ score for the Freedom, and that came off the bat of Matthew Short. Opening the batting, Short scored 80 from just 50 deliveries in their game against TSK. Besides that, there have just been a lot of cameos of 20s and 30s from various different players. Andries Gous, one of the most destructive batsmen in the US at the moment, has failed to get going at the top. He did get off to a slow start in the first game, but wasn't able to truly punish the opposition, as he has done on so many occasions in the past. The middle order, consisting of Mukhtar Ahmed, Glenn Phillips, Moises Henriques, and Obus Piennar also haven't been able to do much.
The bowling attack for Washington is one of the strongest in the tournament. Marco Jansen and Saurabh Netravalkar have been excellent in the powerplay. They restricted Seattle to 34/1 in the first 6, while Texas were only able to manage 33/2 in that same period. With Anrich Nortje also in the team, Netravalkar is able to bowl 3 in the powerplay, where his strength lies. Moises Henriques, the captain, is also a part time medium pacer, and so another option available to the Freedom. In the spin department, Dane Piedt and Akeal Hosein have been superb. Picking up 5 wickets between themselves, they have continued to put the opposition on the back foot, even after the powerplay. Death bowling is a big concern for the Freedom. Against the Orcas, they conceded 41 in the last 4 overs, while TSK hit 74 in the back 5.
Going into week 2 of MLC, there are a few things that the Freedom need to address. It'll be essential that some of these problems are taken care of, if they want to find a way into the playoffs.
LA Knight Riders (0/3)
The Knight Riders are the only team who are yet to get a win under their belts. While they have some big names in their mighty experienced squad, LA have suffered massive losses in their first 3 encounters. While they have been a bit expensive with the ball in hand, LA's weakness lies in their batting.
In the first 2 games of the tournament, LA got bowled out for 112 and 50, respectively. In the 3rd game, while chasing a mammoth 212, they were going steadily at 103/2, but unaffordably collapsed to 116/5. The problem for LA doesn't lie in the quality of their batters. The team is stacked with a arguably the biggest names in the tournament with the likes of Martin Guptill, Jason Roy, Rilee Rossouw, Unmukt Chand, and Gajanand Singh in the team, amongst many others. They've also got the big hitting of Andre Russell, Jaskaran Malhotra, and Bhaskar Yadram which they can turn to. One of the big problems for the Knight Riders is that they aren't able to get off to good starts, and that's really putting pressure on the rest of the batting order to not only play long, but play quickly, because they have had to chase down some big totals. This is leading to some poor shot selection and the need to take too many risks.
In the 3rd game, LA turned things around with the bat. Jason Roy got the team off to a flyer, but LA still couldn't capitalize. Unmukt Chand and Nitish Kumar got off to good starts, but played relatively slowly in their innings. While they were chasing a 200+ total, this pair had the pressure of the middle and lower order not performing on their shoulders, and so they knew they had to take the game deep themselves. The required rate rapidly rising eventually led to their downfall, and once again caused a collapse in the middle order.
With the ball in hand, LA are doing much better. They've got many options available to them, both pace and spin. Ali Khan and Lockie Ferguson have been phenomenal, picking up 5 wickets in the powerplay between themselves. Corne Dry and Andre Russell are also a couple of good options for the middle overs, rounding up the pace bowling. in the spin department, Adam Zampa and Sunil Narine are the 2 main bowlers LA can turn to. In fact, Zampa has picked up 6 wickets across his 3 games, the joint 2nd highest in the tournament.
Overall, LA are all but out of this tournament. Not only do they not have a single point, their net run rate is also horrible. The Knight Riders will have to turn things around big time in Morrisville if they are to stand a chance to qualify for the playoffs.