It's Mumbai v Pune in the Qualifier 1. Mumbai are at home, finished higher in the group stages and are vastly more experienced so we have to side with them in a match where Lendl Simmons could be in his element, says Jamie Pacheco.
'Mumbai are value at [1.8]. They looked like the team most likely to top the group stages ages ago while Pune might even have missed out on a Play-Off spot entirely if they hadn’t beaten the Kings XI at the weekend, let alone finished second. Mumbai are at home. Crucial.'
Mumbai v Pune
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There's been a lot to like about Mumbai this season. The fact they bat all the way down to 9, the composed leadership of Rohit Sharma and the fact that their bowlers are all so different in terms of what they do. From the slingy action of the uber-experienced Lasith Malinga to the wily off-spin of Harbhajan Singh, the mixed all-sorts of Jasprit Bumrah at the death, the aggressive pace and unusual angles of Mitchell McClenaghan and the ever improving skills of the Pandya brothers.
They were worthy table-toppers and even had the foresight to bring Lendl Simmons into the side in place of Jos Buttler, knowing the Englishman wasn't going to be around for the business end of the tournament, allowing Simmons to get a few games under his belt rather than being thrown in at the deep end when it really mattered.
Their only doubt is whether to play Ntish Rana or Ambati Rayudu in the middle order. I'd go for the latter. He's more experienced and after early-season success, Rana's runs have dried up. Now isn't the time to field a player going through a lean spell and somewhat low on confidence.
Credit to Steve Smith. This Pune side, rather like the Gujarat Lions, are a makeshift temporary franchise with no identity given they've been around for just two seasons when everyone else has been around for almost a decade. He led the team well in a typically unfussy Aussie manner but it was his runs as much as his captaincy that were vital to the Pune cause. He was the team's top scorer with 420 at an average of 42.00.
But the find of the tournament as far as Pune are concerned was RA Tripathi, who has played just 26 T20 matches in his career despite being 26 and is uncapped. To put things into perspective, team-mate MS Dhoni has played 342 T20 matches (including internationals) and (fellow opener) Ajinkya Rahane has played 232. Tripathi was the team's second top runscorer with 388.
The elephant in the room is of course who will replace Ben Stokes. He responded to the suspicion regarding his price tag with the sort of all-round performances England fans have become accustomed to. He was the team's talisman. The likely option is to being Usman Khawaja in for him though that does of course mean they'll be deprived of an option with the ball.
Mumbai are value at [1.8]. They looked like the team most likely to top the group stages ages ago while Pune might even have missed out on a Play-Off spot entirely if they hadn't beaten the Kings XI at the weekend, let alone finished second. Mumbai are at home. Crucial.
But look at the levels of experience within the team. Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu and Lasith Malinga have each played at least 10 matches in the post-group stages of the IPL and won two IPL titles. Of those five, only Rayudu isn't a World T20 winner. Simmons has also won the World T20.
For Pune only Dhoni has played in more than 10 IPL post-group stage matches and is also the only one to have won the World T20. Add Stokes' omission to the equation and it's hard to think of reasons not to side with Mumbai at that price.
Yes, OK. You'd needed a hell of a lot of things to go your way to land the following bet but, at odds of 13/1, it's worth a dabble.
Lendl Simmons has a habit of peaking at the business end of tournaments as evidenced by the manner in which he was parachuted into the Windies team for the semi-finals of the last T20 World Cup. Making his debut in the competition, he scored an unbeaten (if somewhat fortuitous) 82 against India. He's hit half-centuries in two of his four IPL matches so far this season and opens the batting. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where Mumbai chase, don't have too many to get and he gets 50 or score while top-scoring.
It's also not hard to picture Pune letting the occasion get the better of them and Steve Smith keeping his head while all those around him lose theirs. As mentioned already, he's the team's highest runscorer and bar Dhoni and Rahane (who's been below his usual standard this IPL) he's just about the the only one to have been in these sort of situations before and dealt with the pressure in the best way.
It's a longshot as the price suggests but at least there's sound reasoning to think the Simmons/Smith double has a decent chance.
Jamie's IPL P/L - 2017