It is the last week of group matches in the 2013 Indian Premier League. By Sunday evening we will know who the four teams are who will take part in the end-of-season play-off. At the moment, with six of the nine teams in with a chance of winning still, it could be just about anyone’s competition.
The two form teams at the moment are Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals and their game this week could be a classic. Both had stunning victories in their last games. Mumbai looked dead and buried in their home clash with Sunrisers Hyderabad. With 24 balls left to go they needed over 15 runs per over to win. Enter West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard, who had had a quiet IPL by his standards to date. He proceeded to bludgeon eight sixes in an astonishing burst, five of them off poor Thisara Perera to completely turn the game around and take Mumbai to the top of the table on net run rate.
In fact, there are actually three teams with 20 points, all of them needing just one more win to be sure of a play-off berth. The other two are Rajasthan and Chennai Super Kings, who met on Sunday. Like Mumbai, Rajasthan struggled chasing a perfectly gettable total and were at one point dead and buried with the score at 45-4. In a precursor of what was to come on Monday, Australian Shane Watson then clobbered 70 runs from just 34 balls as he and Stuart Binny put on 93 runs to take them to the brink of victory before Watson was dismissed. The defeat was Chennai’s second in three matches and enough to topple them from top spot, a position which they had held for almost a fortnight.
Two weeks ago we predicted that Royal Challengers Bangalore would be in for a tough time, and so it proved. The team which was unbeaten at home but winless away duly lost four of their six road games to slip down the table to fourth and, with only 16 points in the bag so far, could still miss the post-season. They were undone on Sunday by reigning champions Kolkata Knight Riders, who produced a slow pitch in Ranchi to frustrate Chris Gayle et al and that is a tactic which will not have been lost on their two remaining opponents, Kings XI Punjab and Chennai. Those games are in Bangalore, which should give the hosts a chance of making the last four, but remember than none of the play-off games are in Bangalore.
Hyderabad’s chances of snatching that final play-off berth were all but ruined by the loss to Mumbai. Although they have the same number of points as Bangalore, they have a vastly inferior net run rate and unless they can thrash both Rajasthan and Kolkata in their last two games they will miss out, assuming that Bangalore also win their final two games.
Kolkata are surprise challengers for that final play-off berth. Like last year, they are finishing strong at the end. Unlike last year, they may have left it too late. With only 12 points they need both Hyderabad and Bangalore to lose both of their last two games, whilst winning their own two matches by big margins - one of them in Hyderabad. Even so, getting this close represents an achievement for a side which was plummeting so fast in the middle of the competition that they seemed nailed on to take last place.
Although Punjab have a mathematical chance of catching the sides above them, in reality they cannot do so as either Hyderabad or Kolkata are guaranteed to pick up at least one more point than they can manage, by virtue of playing one another. Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors India, meanwhile, have only pride left to play for and, in a curious twist of fate, meet one another in the penultimate game of this stage in what seems sure to be the battle for bottom spot.
Despite the form of Mumbai and Rajasthan, I’m sticking with Bangalore to win this tournament. Their odds have drifted nicely down to 6/1 at Ladbrokes and I still believe that they’ll come good in the playoffs, packed as they are with big name performers who respond to that kind of pressure.
At the bottom end of the table there’s very little value now, but Delhi can be added to your sports picks at 5/4, even though Pune would need to win both remaining matches to get out of the cellar.
There’s been an interesting chance in the top batsman market, where Michael Hussey of Chennai is now favourite ahead of long-term leader Chris Gayle of Bangalore, who is odds against for the first time since practically the opening week of the competition. Many thought Gayle looked tired in Bangalore’s loss to Kolkata, but he still top scored for his team on a surface which didn’t suit his style at all. At 8/5 with Betfair he now looks a steal.
The top bowler contest is much more open, with three bowlers - Sunil Narine of Kolkata, Dwayne Bravo of Chennai and Vinay Kumar of Bangalore - tied at the top. The last named still looks the best value here, with Betfair offering betting odds of 19/5 on him and two games on his home pitch to come.