Ed Hawkins marks your card as the decorated franchise starts to make it's move for glory...
"Their hoodoo over Kolkata has been utilised at exactly the right time. They beat them by 13 runs in their previous match. But before that they ousted the much-fancied Kings XI Punjab by six wickets in Indore"
Mumbai drag themselves out of trouble again
With three Indian Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and a win percentage of 56 Mumbai Indians are the most successful T20 side in the world. It's a wonder, then, how they manage to consistently get themselves in terrible trouble in group stages. And then to miraculously haul themselves out.
In 2014 they had to win their last four to qualify after a stinker of a start. They did. In 2015 they lost their first four but went on to win the title. Jesus Christ may have the trademark as the comeback kid but this lot are his disciples. They are specialists in unlikely resurgences.
They are doing it again. After a horrific start in which they lost five of their first six they have been playing knockout cricket since defeat by Royal Challengers Bangalore on the first day of the month. Three games later they are suddenly purring and bang in the mix for a play-off spot.
Last time out Kolkata Knight Riders were razed. It was the eighth time in a row they had beaten them. The Mumbai batting notched a whopping 210 and then their bowlers pummelled their old punch bag one more time to win by 102 runs.
Sure, their hoodoo over Kolkata has been utilised at exactly the right time. They beat them by 13 runs in their previous match. But before that they ousted the much-fancied Kings XI Punjab by six wickets in Indore.
At [7.0] on the outright - before Friday's match - Mumbai were expected to make the top four. Kolkata were disappearing fast at [14.0] while Kings Xi were also wobbling at [6.8]. Rajasthan Royals, who need a Mumbai-like recovery and help from others are [38.0].
Are they the best balanced team?
Considering their track record it is impossible to rule them out for a fourth title. Indeed, in a tournament which has hitherto failed to produce a team which can do it all, Mubmai could well be it. That sounds a ridiculous statement considering the start that they made but look carefully. Is there a better balanced team than Mumbai?
The Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings are fair favourites at [3.25] but to claim that they are standout teams is nonsense.
Sunrisers are going to be difficult to beat but not that difficult. They can defend almost anything - as Mumbai found out when they failed to chase 119, a loss which many thought was the end of their season - but they can't chase anything.
Kane Williamson's team are hugely reliant on their bowling, which is unrivalled in world franchise cricket. It's a huge strength. It's also a huge weakness. The pressure that is placed on the likes of Rashid Khan, Sid Kaul and Bhuv Kumar to consistently perform is immense. They know full well that if they err slightly, then a chase of 170 or more could be curtains in the play-offs.
Not only that but it only takes a master blaster to being seeing the ball like an asteroid from ball one and Sunrisers are suddenly in a sticky situation. This happened to them against Kings XI and Chennai Super Kings when Chris Gayle and Ambati Rayudu respectively tucked in.
Chennai are a better all-round team that Sunrisers. Sure, they don't come close to matching their bowling but, frankly, no-one does or will for a long time. Against other mere mortals they are still below average in the field, though. Their batting is consistent.
Mumbai match up well against Chennai. After they were beaten by the Super Kings in the first game of the tournament, their bowling has tightened up considerably. Only once in their last eight have their bowlers conceded 8.5 an over.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell McClenaghan are solid performers as the franchise's go-to pace options while the emergence of unheralded spinner Mayank Markande is a major boost. Before the start of the tournament it had to be said that the failure to recruit an international-class spinner looked insane.
The reason for Mumbai's up-turn in fortunes could be simply described as: picking their best players. The balance of their XI is now considerably better after they dispensed with Kieron Pollard and took the surprising, but ultimately correct, call to drop Mustafizur Rahman. It's as much about courage of convictions. Mumbai chose the same XI that beat Kolkata last time as the one which threw away victory in the last over against Chennai on the opening day.
They lost twice more in the final over as, clearly, confidence suffered. But with the Pandya brothers now powerhouses with bat and ball and late hitting available in the form of JP Duminy and Ben Cutting, Mumbai feel like a million dollars. Rohit Sharma's class and Ishan Kishan's power are probably worth that much combined. Another title is within their grasp.
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