Qualifier one: Two teams, two chances, one step from the final and James Buttler thinks SRH are best placed to call shotgun on an IPL Final berth...
"In betting terms the wise play is the value option. In what all current stats show as being a pick 'em the price on the Sunrisers of [2.20] is far more attractive than the meagre [1.82] on CSK"
Sunrisers Hyderabad v Chennai Super Kings
Tuesday May 22, 14:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Sunrisers finished top excelling under Williamson
We've been saying from the start of IPL 2018 that the Sunrisers were not going to miss the suspended David Warner if Kane Williamson stepped up to the mark. Williamson has exceeded all expectations. Not only has the Kiwi skipper led the side with a level-headed cool that has seen SRH steal many a close finish, he has also scored 661 runs at 60.09 with a strike-rate of 143.07. Williamson looks set to claim the Orange Cap for most runs in IPL 2018, sitting just 23 runs behind the eliminated Rishabh Pant with a guaranteed two innings to come.
Add to Williamson's runs another 437 from Shikhar Dhawan it's obvious how vital those two are to the SRH cause. Manish Pandey (276 runs) is getting better as the tournament continues and Alex Hales (148 runs in six knocks) watched the early part of the tournament from the dugout and is known to like the big stage.
That said, the Sunrisers excel most in the field. Their knack of defending a moderate score is down to Williamson's tactical acumen and the bowling attack at his disposal. Three of his bowlers have reached double figures in the wicket-taking stakes - Siddarth Kaul (17), Rashid Khan (16) and Shakib Al Hasan (13) have led an attack that has been potent and miserly in equal measure.
CSK are Dhoni's mission possible
For Chennai read Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The living legend of Indian cricket has been on a mission this season and it's entirely possible his dreams could come true. After CSK were suspended for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, when he represented Rising Pune Supergiant, Dhoni is busting a gut to make up for lost time.
Dhoni is a heart on sleeve captain who meets and treats triumph and disaster in very different ways. He hasn't had too much negativity to cope with, but when CSK bowlers have failed to hit their lengths his face contorts behind the stumps. He's put his 446 runs at 89.20 where his mouth is however and no one wants that trophy more.
Only Ambati Rayudu (586) has bettered Dhoni in the CSK run stakes with veteran Aussie Shane Watson (438) and the leading IPL run scorer of all time, Suresh Raina (391), also making their mark.
Shardul Thakur (14 wickets) and Dwayne Bravo (11) are the only two CSK bowlers to reach double figures, but three men, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar and Lungi Ngidi, sit on nine scalps apiece.
SRH get the nod, but it's too close to call
These two sides have met on only eight occasions, but the head-to-head stats are very much in favour of Chennai who lead by a 6-2 margin. In IPL 2018, on 22 April, CSK took this season's bragging rights, too, with a last ball seven-wicket win at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. But that match showed how close these sides are - there's nothing between them. Add to that the fact that only a difference of 0.031 on Net Run Rate separated the two teams across the 14 games they both played in this tournament and you'll see why this is a tough game to call.
By finishing in the top two this Qualifier 1 game gives both sides a second chance. The winner goes straight into the IPL Final and can rest easy in Mumbai until 27 May. The losing side at the Wankhede Stadium will have to travel to Eden Gardens in Kolkata for a match on 25 May to take on the winners of the Eliminator match between Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders. It will be a match they would be favourites to win, but a win on Tuesday makes life so much easier.
In betting terms the wise play is the value option. In what all current stats show as being a pick 'em the price on the Sunrisers of [2.20] is far more attractive than the meagre [1.82] on CSK.
Why would you back anyone else in this market other than Kane Williamson? The Kiwi is priced at 11/4, the same price as Shikhar Dhawan who he has outscored consistently throughout this IPL. I'm also seriously tempted by Alex Hales at 16/5. The Englishman has a history of playing his best innings when the cameras are on him and the crowds expect.
I've a real feeling for Hales in this one and he takes almost my full stake. The nibble goes to Yusuf Pathan at 12/1. The Indian middle-order bat has consistently chipped in with important runs this campaign and, if Sunrisers lose their important top order cheaply, he could be called upon to step up for a big score.
No one would call you crazy if you backed Ambati Rayudu at 11/4 or Suresh Raina at 3/1, but two players appeal as they have edged out in price. Both Shane Watson (7/2) and MS Dhoni (5/1) have had their moments over the last few weeks and are too big at the prices on offer. I'm taking Watson with a half-stakes nibble on Dwayne Bravo at 12/1.
There are so many who could step up and star that this market is not an exact science, but the prices are good enough to take three or four men and spread your stakes. Kane Williamson and MS Dhoni are solid picks for either side at 7/1 and 8/1 respectively.
Further down the list there could be value in Sam Billings and Shakib Al Hasan, both at 16/1.
James Buttler at IPL 2018
At IPL 2017
2 units on Sunrisers Hyderabad to win @ 2.20
1 unit on Alex Hales to be Top SRH Batsman @ 16/5
1 unit on Shane Watson to be Top CSK Batsman @ 7/2
0.25 units each on Kane Williamson @ 7/1, MS Dhoni @ 8/1, Sam Billings 16/1 and Shakib Al Hasan @ 16/1 to be Man of the Match