Who plays Rising Pune Supergiant in Sunday's final? James Buttler believes Kolkata Knight Riders are reaching their peak as the Mumbai Indians slip past their best before date...
"KKR were on the verge of being eliminated by the rain when the heavens opened after they had bowled so well against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Bangalore on Wednesday. The Duckworth Lewis reduced chase of 48 in 6 overs deservedly saw them through. They will be full of confidence and belief and I think that makes the difference."
Mumbai Indians were the best side during the league stage of the competition, but the worry is they have peaked too soon. They desperately need to find freshness in the legs and renewed vigour. Skipper Rohit Sharma is key to re-energising his troops and he has a wealth of experience at his disposal to battle back from what he described as the worst performance of the season against Rising Pune Supergiant in their playoff defeat on Tuesday.
Sharma bemoaned the lack of batting partnerships when chasing a gettable 164 to win. It has surprised me that Nitish Rana was dropped for the RPS game, but Parthiv Patel, Lendl Simmons and Sharma make a solid top order.
The young Pandya brothers of Hardik and Krunal have been one of the success stories of the season and in Mitchell McClenaghan, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh they have pedigree and balance in their attack.
The question is - have they peaked too soon? They would be the first IPL table toppers to go on and lift the trophy since Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural 2008 event. History and momentum is against them.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR might just be getting it right when it matters and, for me, Gautam Gambhir is the best captain in the competition. He's not only contributed as a batsman, but also rung the changes in the field to great effect and has his team behind him.
Chris Lynn's recovery from a shoulder injury has given the top order a boost, but also served to unsettle the Sunil Narine pinch-hitter role. Gambhir should be opening with Lynn and Robin Uthappa performs much better at three in the order, so Narine's powerplay fireworks may not be seen again this season.
Nathan Coulter-Nile has averaged two wickets a game and his 3-21 in the win over Sunrisers earned him his third Man of the Match award of the season. He is well supported in the seam department by Trent Boult and Umesh Yadav, while Piyush Chawla's spin will be a weapon in Bangalore. And don't forget Colin de Grandholme. The big hitting Kiwi is always a threat with both bat and ball - he's KKR's Ben Stokes.
The Betfair boffins can't separate these two sides on Sportsbook, 10/11 apiece, while on the Exchange KKR are marginal favourites at [1.98]. This is a game that would have made a fitting final, there's nothing between the two teams on paper and, on grass, it is a test of mental strength and stamina. Although Mumbai Indians did the double over KKR during the league season, that seems like a lifetime ago.
While Mumbai topped the table and were the best side in the marathon group phase, their dominance of the league has robbed them of momentum. Having qualified a couple of rounds ahead of the rest they rang the changes, rested and reshuffled and then found it hard to recapture former glories in their first playoff defeat to RPS. The question is - can they raise their game two more times?
In contrast, KKR were on the verge of being eliminated by the rain when the heavens opened after they had bowled so well against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Bangalore on Wednesday. The Duckworth Lewis reduced chase of 48 in 6 overs deservedly saw them through. They will be full of confidence and belief and I think that makes the difference. They have also got recent experience of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium surface and I'll take the slightly better Exchange price of [1.98] on KKR.
Top Mumbai Indians Batsman
Mumbai bat deep and provide value down the list. Of course, Rohit Sharma (16/5) is the class act, yet he is only fourth in the Indians list of run getters in IPL 2017. Parthiv Patel (16/5) and Kieron Pollard have most runs for Mumbai. Pollard is the value bet. His 369 runs, just 8 behind Patel, have come at express pace. He doesn't need long at the crease to win this market and at 13/2 is joyously overpriced, particularly in an anticipated low scoring game.
Top Kolkata Knight Riders Batsman
Gautam Gambhir is the only player who can realistically rob David Warner of the Orange Cap for scoring the most runs in IPL 2017. Gambhir has 486 runs to his name and a couple of big innings could rival Warner's tally of 641 runs. Gambhir has skippered KKR brilliantly and leads from the front with the bat. While Sunil Narine (6/1) shuts his eyes and swings with sporadic success, and Robin Uthappa (9/2) and Chris Lynn (5/2) are realistic alternatives, Gambhir is consistency personified and the sensible play at 11/4.
I like to have a nibble at slightly longer odds in these markets and Colin de Grandholme is a savage beast with bat in hand and, like Pollard, provides real value in this market at 14/1.
First Innings Runs
This Bangalore surface seems to be producing lower scores. Even factoring in RCB's woeful season with the bat, there is no doubt that par at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium is around 150-160. Only one game this season saw the normal Bangalore batting bonanza when the Sunrisers made 207. It's a market I won't be betting on for fear one of these sides does a Sunrisers, but if this is a low scoring affair, like the previous playoff match there, I think it makes the nibbles on the likes of Pollard and de Grandholme in the batting markets even more interesting.
*Follow James on Twitter: @cricket_badger
James Buttler at IPL 2017