Paul Krishnamurty previews the first of the IPL play-offs and is tipping Chennai's bowlers to dominate on their home pitch once again...
"This slow pitch is absolutely tailor-made for their spinners, allowing CSK to only concede 160 twice all season."
Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings
Monday, 15:30 BST
Live on BT Sport and Star Gold (Sky Channel 729)
The play-offs are upon us, starting with a Qualifier 1 that is very much in keeping with IPL history. Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have six titles between them and edged out Delhi Capitals for a top-two spot on run-rate. Whoever wins is in the final while the loser gets a second chance in Friday's Qualifier 2.
Hardik the star for table-toppers
Mumbai, to be truthful, have defied my pre-season expectations. They looked an ageing side, too reliant on the top order and lacking the world-class spinners required to contain scoring.
As it turned out, the pacemen delivered. Veteran Lasith Malinga has proved excellent back-up to Jasprit Bumrah. Along with Hardik Pandya, this trio have 46 wickets combined. The latter has been their ultimate hero, repeatedly delivering late with the bat. The all-rounder has 373 runs at an economy of 197.
Chennai much happier at home
Having led the table all season, Chennai suffered a very stressful finale. They looked set for 190, collapsed to 170 and, for much of the chase, were in real danger of slipping below Delhi on run-rate.
CSK haven't finished the season well, losing four of their last six matches. One positive, however, is that Faf Du Plessis found top form last time with 96 and Suresh Raina also hit a fifty. The top order has been a weakness and, were it not for MS Dhoni's 368 runs at 140, they would not be in this position.
A return to Chepauk certainly improves their prospects. Their spinners, particularly Imran Tahir, have been dominant on home turf. They've won six out of seven games here but, notably, the only defeat came to Mumbai.
Lower scores likely on slow surface
If the pitch plays slow as it has all season, this is very much an 'unders' situation. Seven first innings totals produced nothing beyond 179 and two below 110. The three totals in the 170s all took plenty of getting and two of them were winning scores.
Of the last 15 scores at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, seven were below 160. I'll be prepared to lay that band at [1.6] pre-match and the 150 or more band at [1.35].
Chennai preferred given home advantage
Ten of the last 14 matches at Chennai were won by the team batting first - as one might expect on a very slow pitch. That hasn't stopped the last four toss winners fielding first, presumably because of the dew factor. If the market over-reacts to the toss, be prepared to buck it.
If this were against any other opposition, Chennai would be strong favourites rather than effectively each of two, at [1.98]. That reflects a general loss of form and the fact Mumbai beat them easily here. Indeed, they have won four times from six at this venue.
Nevertheless, the hosts are preferred. This slow pitch is absolutely tailor-made for their spinners, allowing CSK to only concede 160 twice all season. If their top order performs well again, they will take plenty of beating.
Naturally and correctly, Rohit Sharma and Quinton De Kock head the Mumbai runscorer list at 5/2 and 13/5 respectively. At 6/1, Hardik Pandya is short enough despite his credentials, given how late he bats.
The Chennai market is a little more open, with Faf Du Plessis and Shane Watson tied at 3/1, ahead of Suresh Raina at 13/5. Dhoni has proved a great bet at around 6/1 all tournament but similar comments to Pandya apply regarding his low batting position.
One further bet appeals for Man of the Match. There is of course every chance that a batsman wins this with a great innings but trying to pick between so many stars feels impossible.
Among the bowlers, though, Imran Tahir really stands out. He has 21 wickets and, with Rabada out for the remainder, will be busting a gut to get the four required to be top tournament wicket-taker. 10/1 on his home pitch is a price that I reckon would deliver more frequently than the odds imply.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
2019 IPL Stats:
Back Chennai 4u @ [1.98]