The penultimate weekend of the Indian Premier League is upon us and there is still everything to play for most sides in the competition.
The top four teams will advance to the play-offs after the group phase, with those that finish first and second afforded two shots at making the final.
First and second will meet in the first play-off match, with the winner going straight through to the final. Third and fourth meet after that in the first eliminator, with the winner of that match going on to face the loser of the first in the second qualifier.
Friday 26 April
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai (16:30)
Chennai Super Kings 72/100
Mumbai Indians 23/20
The Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians meet with both teams still firmly in the running to make the play-offs.
Mumbai will be out to prove that the Super Kings are not as unstoppable as their early IPL form has suggested, but they will have to raid fortress Chidambaram. CSK are unbeaten at home so far this season, having recorded five wins in as many attempts in Chepauk.
The surface in Chennai has improved as the tournament has gone on, which will offer some encouragement to the Mumbai Indians, though a slower deck might not be to the liking of openers Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock.
CSK lost a last-ball thriller last weekend, but made up for that defeat with a great victory over the Sunrisers.
For the Mumbai Indians, wins over RCB and the Capitals have been bookended by defeats to basement boys the Rajasthan Royals, proving anything can happen in IPL 2019.
Verdict: Don’t bet against CSK in Chennai.
Saturday 27 April
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur (16:30)
Inconsistency has plagued the Rajasthan Royals, who need all but a miracle to make the play-offs now. They host the Sunrisers Hyderabad, needing a win to keep their slim play-off hopes alive.
The Sunrisers appear to be leading a four-team race for fourth place, but need to get back to winning ways to stay in the frame.
The Royals have won just two of their five home matches in Jaipur, though their form on the road is not any better.
With an expensive squad, the Royals have so far been the disappointment of IPL 2019 – and they need their internationals to turn it up before their departure to join up with their respective World Cup squads.
The Sunrisers have lost their last two away matches, on both occasions failing at their 2018 strength – defending a total.
Verdict: The Sunrisers should put the Royals out of their misery.
Sunday 28 April
Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi (12:30)
Delhi Capitals 91/100
Royal Challengers Bangalore 91/
The Royal Challengers Bangalore have fought their way back with a remarkable string of results, but face a stern test in the shape of the in-form Delhi Capitals on Sunday.
Kagiso Rabada of the Capitals has dominated the race for the purple cap as the 2019 tournament’s leading wicket-taker. He has been their clear player of the competition so far.
RCB’s charge has also been led by a South African, with AB de Villiers in blistering form with the bat for the team led by India skipper Virat Kohli.
The Capitals have been very good away from home, but haven’t settled in to the Feroz Shah Kotla very well because of a sluggish surface.
Anything over 160 in Delhi should be a defendable score, but individual brilliance with the bat could tip the scales on a surface that has proved tricky to get in on.
Verdict: The Capitals to snuff out the RCB challenge.
Eden Gardens, Kolkata (16:30)
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Knight Riders’ challenge for the 2019 IPL crown has fallen away quite dramatically, but they cannot be discounted given the sheer number of match-winners in their squad.
Andre Russell’s form for KKR has helped earn him a World Cup call-up, but that also means he may not be available for the play-offs. He leads the six-hitting table by some distance from fellow West Indian Chris Gayle.
Quinton de Kock is the only Mumbai Indians batsman in the top 20 run-scorers so far this season. The Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman has shown consistent form throughout, even as he has struggled against the turning ball.
Jasprit Bumrah has been miserly with the ball for the Mumbai Indians again this season, aided by the surprise performer, tweaker Rahul Chahar.
Eden Gardens is one of the best batting tracks in India, showcased by last Friday in KKR’s 10-run loss to RCB.
Verdict: Mumbai Indians to continue their roll to the play-offs.
Written by @JonhenryWilson