Sunrisers Hyderabad must have been put in the mind of Groundhog Day. Three matches, three great positions in chases, all squandered, their worst start to an IPL. A weak middle order leaves their two big overseas batters - whether it be Kane Williamson or Jonny Bairstow playing alongside captain David Warner - too much to juggle: score at a quick tempo but also bat deep. With Williamson injured, one out of Bairstow and Warner has threatened to win each of their three matches, but their dismissal has always been followed by the middle order struggling on the slow Chepauk surface.
The Sunrisers' leadership has called for "smarter cricket", better manipulation of the field, and for at least one set batter to go deep into the innings. That was Warner's role in this chase against the Mumbai Indians, but he ran himself out, an event he shrugged off.
"They [150 scores] are very chaseable," Warner said after the game. "It's just poor batting. If you get a partnership there and have one guy there at the end… like all the teams batting first have always had one person there at the end. If you're able to do that you can chase 150 quite easily.
"You just need smart cricket in the middle. At the moment we haven't been able to produce that. I think our bowlers adapted fantastically to this wicket, and this wicket was a lot slower than the previous ones we played on."
VVS Laxman, the Sunrisers' mentor, echoed Warner's sentiments.
"That's a very important skill especially on these kind of wickets because it is not easy to hit through the line," Laxman said. "You can't rely on just boundaries and sixes. It's very important to keep the dot-ball percentage low, and the only way you can do it is by manipulating the field by rotating the strike. I think that is one aspect of the game that is very important on these kind of wickets.
"Unfortunately we were not able to do that especially when Rahul Chahar was bowling and even when other fast bowlers were bowling in the middle overs. That's one aspect which is very critical if you have to put the pressure back on the bowlers and the fielding side."
Laxman was glad the Sunrisers got the first bit right: score quickly during the Powerplay to bring the asking rate down. "As the ball gets old in the second half of the innings, it is getting tougher to play your natural game, to play the big shots because the ball is just stopping on the wicket and it is two-paced," Laxman said. "And also the spinners are extracting turn along with bounce. That is one of the aspects we definitely discussed. If you see the way Jonny Bairstow and David Warner capitalised on the powerplay, that will be very important going forward especially when you are playing on slow tracks like what we are seeing in Chennai. To use the new ball, to use the Powerplay restriction, so that you put the other batsmen who are coming in later under less pressure.
"Also it is very important that one set batsman plays quite deep into the innings because it is quite difficult for a newcomer to get used to the surface straightaway especially when the asking rate is climbing up. The first 10 overs, the way you show your positive and aggressive intent, will help the second half of the innings."
The Sunrisers have tended to hold Abdul Samad, the one bright spot in a disappointing middle order last year, for the final few overs, but Laxman was asked if there was a temptation to drop the struggling Manish Pandey down the order and give Samad more time in the middle. "We have been flexible with our batting order," Laxman said. "Even today we made changes, we had Virat Singh and Abhishek Sharma, two left-hand batters, to counter the Mumbai spinners. We have got some days before the next game, and we will definitely go back to the drawing board to work out the strategy to get a win under our belt and we will look at what the best combination and batting order is."
Between now and the next game, Sunrisers will also be looking at their medical team who now have T Natarajan's sore knee to take care of in addition to Williamson's elbow. Laxman revealed Natarajan was left out because of a niggle in the knee, but his replacement, Khaleel Ahmed, did a good job with figures of 4-0-24-1.