Mumbai Indians have hit the top of the IPL table as we head to the halfway point but Matt Harris expects Rajasthan to respond to a recent dip in form when the teams meet on Tuesday...
"It’s inconceivable that Jos Buttler will go through this competition without making a major contribution."
Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals
Tuesday October 6, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sport Cricket
Mumbai go top
Two consecutive wins have put Mumbai Indians at the top of the IPL table as we head into the third week and everything looks to point towards a comfortable passage into the playoffs. Key batsmen are finding form while the pace attack of Trent Boult, James Pattinson and Jasprit Bumrah is key to taking early wickets and keeping opposition batting line ups in check.
Kieron Pollard has described himself, together with the Pandya brothers, as the 'engine room' of this team with the trio boosting totals in the death overs. With Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock and Ishan Kishan all making early runs, it's looking bright for Mumbai as we head towards the crucial phase of the groups.
Stuttering Royals wait for reinforcement
Having won their opening two matches of IPL 13, Rajasthan have slumped to two straight defeats and neither of those losses have been close. There is some good news with Ben Stokes returning to the squad but the England all rounder will not be available to face Mumbai.
Steve Smith and Sanju Samson had made early advances on the Orange Cap and, with Jos Buttler back after missing the first game, things were looking positive in the Royals' camp. Buttler has made just 47 in three knocks, while Smith and Samson have returned single figure scores in those recent defeats, so there's an obvious issue for Rajasthan to address.
There's always the option to leave Buttler in reserve for the death overs but that talented top order won't be quiet for long and a return to form can give the Royals a chance here.
h2>Happy hunting ground for Rohit's men
We're back at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi which hosts its seventh game of IPL 2020. Six previous matches have produced an average first innings score of 167. Mumbai's winning total of 195 against KKR is the highest so far while the Indians also passed 190 when beating Kings XI by 48 runs last Thursday.
It's largely been a productive ground for Mumbai while Rajasthan lost here to RCB last time out. The overall trend in this tournament is for sides batting first to prevail but, on this surface, wins are more evenly split. Mumbai's recent success has been built on big first innings totals so the aim should be to win the toss, bat first and get close to 200.
Momentum with Mumbai
Mumbai are clear in the match winner market at odds of 4/61.68 while the Royals are trailing behind at 5/42.28. All the indicators are with Rohit Sharma's men as the Indians clearly have the better form and they have more experience and success on this Abu Dhabi surface.
Trends are meant to be broken and, in the unpredictable world of T20 cricket, outsiders offer good value at times and that appears to be the case with the Royals. They need a faster and more reliable start and it's inconceivable that Jos Buttler will go through this competition without making a major contribution. Mumbai are worthy favourites but I'm backing Rajasthan this time.
Back Smith to step up
While I've identified Buttler as a key batter for Rajasthan, Steve Smith is another player who is due a big score. The skipper acted as a perfect foil when Sanju Samson was in destructive mode but has struggled in his last two games and is always at his best when the critics start to hover.
In the Royals' top batsman market, Buttler is likely to start as favourite at 11/43.75 with Smith hopefully further back at around 3/14.0. Samson at 3/14.0 and Robin Uthappa at 7/24.5 should be considered as well. For me, it's a toss up between Smith and Buttler and you could even take a hedge by backing both. If pushed for one pick, I'll side with the Aussie.
Stake on Mumbai maximums
It's been difficult to overlook the claims of Mumbai Indians who are in great touch and have a more balanced side at this stage. I just feel that Rajasthan are set to respond to a dip in form but I will acknowledge that Mumbai have the greater depth of power hitters in their ranks.
For that reason, I'll sign off with Mumbai to hit the most sixes at around 5/61.85 although Rajasthan will be a tempter here if they can reach odds of 6/52.2.
Matt Harris' IPL P/L
P/L: +1.16 pts
Back Steve Smith to top score for the Royals at 3/14.0