At the halfway stage of a crazy, bat-dominated tournament, Ed Hawkins wonders which team can get both disciplines sorted...
"Unless Chennai start to get their skills sorted from ball one, rather than relying on the profligacy of others, they surely cannot claim the title in their first season back after a ban"
Chennai are probably the most bonkers team of the lot, despite topping the table before Friday's match with five wins from six. In three of those matches - against Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore - they have looked a beaten team until the last over. So they've got guts.
But is [3.25] really a value bet about a team which so consistently finds itself in trouble? They are conceding whopping totals bowling first only to be bailed out by extraordinary innings from the likes of MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo.
Unless they start to get their skills sorted from ball one, rather than relying on the profligacy of others, they surely cannot claim the title in their first season back after a ban.
More pretenders? A glance at the league table suggests Kings are a major force. And they are certainly resurgent having consistently disappointed in IPLs. But all that glitters is not gold. There is a lot of smokes and mirrors with this team.
In short, they have two batsmen in KL Rahul and Chris Gayle who are tearing bowling units apart. They are at Nos 3 and 5 respectively on the run lists. But that is it. If these two fail, where do they go? Against Sunrisers on Thursday when they failed to chase 132 - and Delhi Daredevils to an extent - their batting has no longevity. Aaron
Finch and Yuvraj Singh are having terrible tournaments and David Miller and Marcus Stoinis are stealing a living.
Ravi Ashwin's captaincy is strong, though. And we are a fan of AJ Tye's pace. They could make the final so long as they meet similarly flawed teams along the way.
Sunrisers won their first three matches and in a league of crazy, unreliable and inconsistent units they were our chill pill. They were solid with the bat, if unspectacular, but outstanding with the ball. Indeed, their bowling unit could be the best ever assembled in the franchise game.
But then everything fell apart. Against Chennai and Kings XI their bowlers lost their lines and length, conceding 182 and 193. But what really alarmed was how their batting had no higher gears. They were just plodding along, as if they were playing for run rate. There was no vim and vigour. In both chases they lost only four and six wickets respectively. Most teams would have won from those positions.
Thankfully, their bowling has recovered. And how. Defending 118 and 132 against Mumbai and Kings XI was insane. They will surely qualify for the play-offs because no team is tighter in the field. But chasing 170-plus will be tricky.
The Knight Riders are doing okay. They were our outright tip for glory before a ball has bowled. Since then we have moderated our view that they are winners-in-waiting. When they failed to defend 203 against Chennai we thought they couldn't possibly go all the way.
But in a tournament where no team can seemingly keep things tight in the field, save for Sunrisers, it might not matter that much. Like Chennai and Kings XI they will take a straight shootout with bats at the ready.
There is a chance they could tighten up with the ball as the wickets get more worn. The spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla could get some grip to get a grip on their season. But their pace attack is noticeably thin.
RCB have been stinking the place out for years in the IPL and they continue to do so. Criminally short whenever they cross the white line - and always to be taken on in the top two of the outright - they are again struggling to qualify.
They have two wins from six. Despite the batting talents of Quinton de Kock, Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers wowing the mug punter, they are coming up short because of little runscoring ability elsewhere.
What is perhaps most surprising is that an attack of Chris Woakes, Washington Sunday, Yuz Chahal and Umesh Yadav have been so poor. With an economy rate of almost 13 at the death they haemorrhage more runs that any other team. They have to be taken on every time they go sub [2.0].
Rajasthan could be the team to emerge from the pack. But it would help if they started picking their best XI and that means making some difficult decisions about their marquee players. One from Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Heinrich Klaasen, for example, has got to go. They have to find room for spinner Ish Sodhi otherwise their attack is one-dimensional.
The return from Jofra Archer is a major boost and they may be capable of being one of the only units to be competitive with bat and ball. But only if Sodhi comes into the frame.
An XI of Rahane, Samson, Tripathi, Stokes, Klaasen, Binny, Archer, Kulkarni, Sodhi, Gowtham, Unadkat looks more balanced than most. There are worst gambles at this stage of the season.
From champs to chumps in about three weeks. Mumbai's season started badly with defeat by Chennai Super Kings when they had the points in their pocket. But they were criminally negligent at the death in that game and they haven't recovered.
Last time out against Sunrisers they couldn't chase 118. At the start of the tournament we said that they were a batsman short and they had made a rick with no international spinner being signed. We stand by both. Mayank Markande has been a real find for them, though.
Delhi are in disarray. Gautam Gambhir has quit as skipper and their bowling is abysmal. They will consistently concede 180-plus batting first or second so they are a favourite for in-running punters.
Currently bottom of the table we can't see them getting more than a couple of wins in the second half of the campaign. Trent Boult is a Test bowler and Mo Shami is suffering poor form because of off-the-field issues.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l