CSK are flying, Delhi Daredevils subterranean - it's the easiest call James Buttler has had to make in IPL 2018 so far...
"Suresh Raina has been the heartbeat of CSK's batting since the inception of the IPL and 11 season's on he remains their best batsman. In 165 IPL matches he has scored 4,776 runs, more than anyone else in IPL history. It's customary to pick a batsman at the top of the order to look after your cash, but Raina's tendency to score important runs at key times for CSK makes him the CSK batting play for the rest of this competition."
Delhi Daredevils v Chennai Super Kings
Friday May 18, 15:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Daredevils have mentally checked out
Delhi have been the passengers of IPL 2018. While seven of the eight sides competing in India have been vying for the final four Playoff spots, the Daredevils have long been resigned to their early bath. Just three wins from 12 matches is a poor return from a side blessed with significant talent.
Rishabh Pant (582 runs at 52.90) is currently the second highest scoring batsman in IPL 2018, behind Lokesh Rahul, and must be frustrated that only Shreyas Iyer (386 runs) has made a significant contribution to team totals alongside him.
Similar thoughts must be running through the mind of Trent Boult with the ball. The Kiwi has taken 15 wickets, albeit at an expensive 9.24 runs per over, and is eight scalps clear of Amit Mishra, the next best Daredevils bowler. Too many Daredevils have hidden behind Pant, Iyer and Boult, while all have been metaphorically on the beach for some time.
CSK have all to play for
CSK have far loftier aspirations that their rivals on Friday. Already guaranteed a playoff berth, the drive is now to finish in the top two on the ladder to enhance their chances in the final four. Currently second in the standings, a top two finish provides at least two attempts of making the final on 27 May. CSK have serious hopes of adding to their 2010 and 2011 crowns and the mood in the camp is positive.
Ambati Rayadu (535 runs) has led the charge with the bat, but it's not been a solo mission. Shane Watson (424) and Suresh Raina (315) have both been influential, while MS Dhoni has hit 413 runs at an average of 103.25. Dhoni is visibly living every ball of IPL 2018, joyous most of the time, determined all the time and visibly annoyed when plans backfire. His influence on this CSK side should not be underestimated. He is Chennai's talisman and is form for the remainder of the tournament will go a long way to determining whether he ends May with a trophy in hand.
Shardul Thakur has the most CSK wickets with 11, but the strength of Dhoni's side is that they have been a team in the field. Dwayne Bravo (9), Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar with seven apiece and Watson and Imran Tahir with six have shared the key moments in the field. It gives Dhoni options and a few Plan Bs.
Chennai the obvious play to win
These two sides have met 17 times and CSK have been victorious on 12 occasions. Over the last nine encounters the Daredevils have only won one game. In five previous matches played at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, CSK lead the Daredevils by four games to one.
In the reverse fixture between these teams on 1 May CSK won a high scoring contest by 13 runs. As CSK sit second in the standings Delhi are rock bottom and their hopes of making the Playoffs disappeared a couple of games ago.
CSK are secure in the playoffs but need to keep winning to gain a top two finish. It all points to a CSK win at [1.71] and, although it's odds-on, it's the strongest bet I've seen in IPL 2018.
Why is Colin Munro still listed as favourite in the Top Scorer for Delhi batting markets? While the New Zealander has barely created a ripple, Rishabh Pant is the most exciting young Indian player and has been explosive, impressive and prolific. Pant's price of 3/1 has come in during the competition as his runs have mounted, but it's still the sensible play. Shreyas Iyer, also 3/1, is the only alternative for your main stake.
Suresh Raina has been the heartbeat of CSK's batting since the inception of the IPL and 11 season's on he remains their best batsman. In 165 IPL matches he has scored 4,776 runs, more than anyone else in IPL history. It's customary to pick a batsman at the top of the order to look after your cash, but Raina's tendency to score important runs at key times for CSK makes him the CSK batting play for the rest of this competition. If CSK win this IPL Raina is the man to trust to land your bet and at 7/2 is the value play. Raina holds more appeal that the shorter priced Shane Watson, Ambati Rayadu and MS Dhoni, despite all threes success in this competition. I usually offer up a cover nibble, but I trust CSK's top order to do the job against an ailing Delhi attack.
Top Team A/B Runscorer Double markets are a good way to take a great price on two strong choices and I'm confident enough in Pant and Raina to take the 17/1 on them both to top score for their respective teams in this one. It's a half-stakes play, but a potentially lucrative market - get it right a few times in a tournament and that betting balance looks extremely healthy!
James Buttler at IPL 2018
At IPL 2017
2 units on CSK to win @ 1.71
1 unit on Rishabh Pant to be Top Daredevils Batsman @ 3/1
1 unit on Suresh Rain to be Top CSK Batsman @ 7/2