Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals
Friday 24 May, 15:30hrs BST
Live on ITV4 and itv.com
Ricky Ponting's side always looked likely to qualify for the play offs from the moment that the skipper dropped to the bench. As a result, the team have enjoyed a better balance at the top of the order and although Dwayne Smith and Glenn Maxwell have alternated as Ponting's replacement, Mumbai have been more powerful in the opening overs and have always looked destined for the final.
Smith is likely to retain his place as he was the only batsman to emerge with any credit from Tuesday's Eliminator with Chennai. Mumbai will be confident of progressing past Rajasthan and taking revenge against the Super Kings but the margin of that 48 run defeat to CSK will cause some concerns in the squad.
Aside from Smith's 68, the highest score was Kieron Pollard's 24 but his dismissal sparked an alarming collapse that saw the final six wickets fall for just 17 runs. A significant improvement will be needed against a vastly underrated Royals side.
The Royals sailed into the top four thanks to a perfect record of eight wins from eight home games during the group stages but Rahul Dravid's men have looked vulnerable away from their Jaipur stadium.
Rajasthan were subsequently tested by the Sunrisers in Wednesday's eliminator but as the run rate started to slip away, Brad Hodge took his side over the line with an outstanding 54 from just 29 balls. Hodge's innings underlined the strength in depth that exists in this Royals team but many believe that Mumbai only need to dismiss the top three of Dravid, Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane and they have won the game.
Hodge is the leading run scorer in T20 competition around the world and is still in prolific form at 38 while at the other end of the age scale, this has been a breakthrough tournament for 18 year old Sanju Samson. Along with Stuart Binny, Rajasthan have a dangerous middle order and this game should be a lot closer than many are expecting.
Venue and Conditions
Eden Gardens hosts its first game of the knockouts but in six matches during the group phase, this proved to be a relatively low scoring ground. The average first innings total was 144 but that figure is masked slightly by the fact that the Kolkata Knight Riders underperformed on this surface.
160 should be a minimum target for the team taking first knock on a day where heavy cloud cover is forecast along with the threat of rain which may even bring the spectre of Duckworth Lewis.
When it comes to clichés I avoid them like the plague but Mumbai's biggest enemy in this game is complacency. They have a far stronger side than the Royals both in batting and bowling and are rightful favourites here at [1.72].
Rajasthan have already beaten Mumbai in the group stages by a comfortable margin of 87 runs which will make their win odds of [2.36] tempting for some. The Royals will make it tough but Mumbai's greater all round strength should seal a place in the final.
Dwayne Smith's knock of 68 on Tuesday sees him installed at [3.5] but favourite here is the more consistent Rohit Sharma at [3.05].
Meanwhile, Kieron Pollard lurks at [5.7] and after top scoring on two previous occasions in IPL 6 is one to consider. In fact, I'd go further and actually stake on a player who shines in games such as these and could prove to be the difference between the two teams.
Shane Watson has been a little subdued in recent games but the Aussie all-rounder remains favourite at [3.05]. Brad Hodge's odds have shortened to [3.6] following his winning knock in Delhi but the veteran comes in too late to provide a consistent return in this market.
The unreliable but occasionally brilliant Ajinkya Rahane would be my pick at around [3.75].