On Sunday, Punjab Kings breached the 200 mark for the third match in a row. It’s a rare feat: only one IPL team has done it before them, and it’s instructive that that team, Kolkata Knight Riders, also did it this season. Teams this year have scored big totals more frequently than ever before; with almost a month of the tournament remaining, IPL 2023 has already broken the record for most 200-plus totals in a season.
The introduction of the Impact Player rule has had a lot to do with this. Every team bats deeper as a result of it, and it’s allowed every team to bat with a greater degree of freedom.
But it’s Kings, perhaps, who have embraced this spirit of adventure more than any other team, and their victory on Sunday exemplified it.
Kings’ batters buzzed with intent from start to finish. The chase wasn’t always fluent, but every now and then a big over would come by, keeping them in touch with their asking rate.
Prabhsimran and Jitesh, in particular, exemplify this Kings side, and their innings here continued the good work they’ve done throughout the season. Prabhsimran has 210 runs this season at a strike rate of 153.28, and Jitesh 190 at 162.39. Both average in the 20s, but it’s a trade-off teams will be prepared to make if they have enough batting depth.
Jitesh was off the blocks straightaway, launching Ravindra Jadeja for a massive, second-ball six, and it’s something he does often, finding the boundary as soon as he arrives at the crease.
It’s a clear indication of how they approach innings, and it reflects in the fact that they have the joint-second-fewest 50-plus scores of any team this season (7), while putting up the joint-most 190-plus totals (5). And they’ve achieved all this without Jonny Bairstow.
Sunday’s victory was a distillation of all that. It was only the second time in all T20s that a team had chased down 200 or more with fewer than five wickets in hand without any of their batters scoring a fifty.
Intent right through the innings, and a reliance on a succession of small, impactful innings rather than big scores from one or two players. While there might be a element of Kings wanting to play this way, it’s also true that they might be forced to play this way, given that they have one of the weaker bowling attacks in the IPL. They may have scored three successive 200-plus totals, but they also happened to concede 200-plus totals in each of those games, with Lucknow Super Giants scoring an astonishing 257 earlier in the week.
Kings’ bowling weaknesses, in short, force them to aim for well above par when they bat first, and to gun down big targets more often when they chase.
Through a combination of design and circumstance, therefore, they’ve constructed a batting unit built around collective intent rather than individual brilliance, and it’s working fairly well for now. In tangible terms, it has brought Kings five wins from nine games, and it’s kept them very much in the running in the playoffs race.
With inputs from Karthik Krishnaswamy and Shiva Jayaraman
Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo