The top two face off on Sunday and with Hyderabad outsiders, that provides a good opportunity to back the side who is not only topping the table but looks best equipped to deal with whatever is thrown at them, says Jamie Pacheco...
"They’ve consistently found different ways to win games from different scenarios and the fact that they added a new way against Delhi means that the gameplan against them might not be so obvious after all. Add to that the fact that they’re coming off an impressive win while Chennai are fresh from a disappointing one and you can add momentum to Hyderabad’s cause, too."
Chennai Superkings v Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunday May 13 11.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Dhoni in control
If you had to give Chennai a score for their efforts so far it would probably be 7.5. It's not easy to get back into things after a two-year absence but if you ever you need a man to gee up the troops, come up with a plan and take control of most things it's MS Dhoni. He's not so much the captain of Chennai as he is Chennai.
They're a hard side to work out in terms of where their strengths lie but they're not a hard side to work out in terms of where they don't lie. Their death bowling has been awful and it cost them on Friday against Rajasthan. They really should have defended 28 off the last two overs. But didn't.
MS Dhoni was visibly angry at the lengths bowled by David Willey in the 19th over, which went for 16, and the Englishman may just pay for that with a match on the sidelines here.
But that obvious weakness with the ball in the death overs aside, they've generally been good and are on course for an all-important Top 2 finish.
Not so one-dimensional any more
There was always a feeling that if you could bat first against the Sunrisers, post a big total and put pressure on their batting line-up, you'd probably beat them. Well, not anymore. Having shown already they could chase par totals and defend small totals, on Thursday night they went ahead and showed they can also big totals.
Most remarkable of all was that they chased Delhi's 188 with the minimum of fuss. They only lost one wicket in the process and did it with five balls to spare.
So apparently they really can do anything and if you want to lay them at [3.0] to go on and win the 2018 IPL, you're a braver man than I am.
Particularly significant in that win was the contribution of Shikhar Dhawan. He'd had a series of low scores going into that one but responded with a brilliant unbeaten 92. Kane Williamson also showed he can score quicker when needed with an eye-catching 83 off 53.
Chennai are marginal favourites here. If you want reasons to side with the 'home' team (who aren't really at home at all as they're not playing in Chennai) then you can look at the fact that they probably have more match-winners in the side and beat Sunrisers in the first edition of this fixture this season, three weeks ago. If the pitch is a belter and it becomes a batting shoot-out, they may have the edge there as well because they bat deeper.
But that loss was one of only two they've had all season after 11 games. They've consistently found different ways to win games from different scenarios and the fact that they added a new way against Delhi means that the gameplan against them might not be so obvious after all. Add to that the fact that they're coming off an impressive win while Chennai are fresh from a disappointing one and you can add momentum to Hyderabad's cause, too. All in all, [2.08] isn't a bad price about the side who has been the best in the competition so far and certainly has the best bowling line-up.
Dhoni is averaging a ridiculous 98 in this edition of the IPL. That figure is of course massively boosted by the fact that he has seven not outs from 11 knocks but of greater significance are his 393 runs at a strike rate of 163. It puts him second on the list of Chennai batsmen, behind only opener AT Rayudu.
Suresh Raina has found some form of late- at last - and that will be hugely important to them that he keeps it when going into the play-off matches. Raina is 7/2 to be Chennai top batsman here with fellow openers Shane Watson 13/5 and Rayudu available at 23/10; he's the favourite.
Dhoni is the value at 6/1, especially when you consider that you need brains as much as brawn when facing Hyderabad's talented and varied bowling attack. He's been batting at four all season so barring a really bad day for the visitors' bowlers, he should get enough time at the crease to give you a decent run for your money.
Dhawan is one of those batsmen who when he's in form, he's really in form. He'll feel a lot better about life after that brilliant knock in Thursday's run chase and may yet follow it up with another decent score here. Chennai have plenty of variety in bowling and it's not unusual to see six or seven different players having a go each game but this isn't one of the best bowling attacks. The classy left-hander is 5/2 to get another 50 here and that looks an interesting price.
Jamie's IPL 2018 P/L
Staked: 20 pts
Returned: 18.5 pts
P&L: -1.5 pts