Chennai Super Kings were the hot favourites to take the title before the weekend, but those hopes took a big knock on Saturday as the Mumbai Indians bowled them out for just 79 - a situation which should’ve been a lot worse as top scorer Michael Hussey was dropped three times in the opening over by Mumbai’s Kieron Pollard. A win in that game would’ve left them going into Wednesday’s clash with Hyderabad needing just one more victory to guarantee a play-off spot, but now a losing streak could still see them miss out altogether.
That is the beauty of the IPL at this time of the competition, one good or bad game can have a significant impact upon events. Royal Challengers Bangalore finally won their first away game of the season at their fifth attempt, winning in Pune, but then failed to carry that form through as they lost to Kings XI Punjab. Punjab, in turn, harbour outside hopes of a play-off berth but with only 10 points from 11 games still need someone above them to slip up as 18 points is starting to look like the minimum necessary to get to the post-season. Bangalore remain my tip to win this at 9/2 with BetVictor, but don’t discount Chennai at 13/8 (Stan James) to balance your risk.
Of the other teams looking to make the post-season, it looks to be a three team fight for two spots between Rasjasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad. The latter lag well behind the other two on net run rate (i.e. the rate at which they score runs divided by the rate at which runs are scored against them) as they have risen to fifth spot purely on the strength of their bowling attack and have no batsman ranked in the top 25 run scorers.
Down at the foot of the table, reigning champions Kolkata Knight Riders continue to struggle, although a victory over Rajasthan will have been heartwarming after a shocking loss to Delhi in midweek. There are rumours of divisions between players, captain and coaching staff in Kolkata, rumours which no-one seems to be moving particularly fast to dispell. Delhi had a bad week themselves, being bowled out for 80 by Hyderabad and over in Pune captain Angelo Mathews finally fell on his sword after a torrid first season as an IPL skipper, but it is still Kolkata who look most likely to unravel and finish last at betting odds of 18/1 with Betfair.
The top run-scorer race, however, appears to be a three way event. Chris Gayle of Bangalore leads with 566, having retaken the lead from his team captain Virat Kohli (who is in something of a slump and well out of the running). That is just 59 ahead of Hussey, who looks best value at 2/1. Don’t discount a fast finisher, though. Rohit Sharma of Mumbai can’t stop scoring runs since inheriting the captaincy from Ricky Ponting and the bulk of his 414 runs have been scored in the last five games. He’s a decent outside choice for your sports picks at 28/1 with Betfair.
Top wicket taker remains a much more open affair, with just five wickets between the top six. Dwayne Bravo of Chennai leads the way with 20, but the real value here is in Bangalore’s Vinay Kumar, who is in second place with 19 but, importantly, has finally started taking wickets in away games. With Bangalore’s last two matches being at home he looks better placed to snatch the crown from Bravo than the other Indian in the mix, Amit Mishra of Hyderabad, who is not only two wickets behind on 17 but who plays for a side whose weak batting might see them miss the play-offs. Back him at 4/1.