The Chennai Super Kings moved level on points with Kings XI Punjab at the top of the IPL 2014 table after their 34-run win over the Kolkata Knight Riders and only trail Kings XI by net run rate.
A knock of 56 from Brendon McCullum helped Chennai continue their fine run in this competition, where they have triumphed in five of their opening six fixtures. They are four points clear of Rajasthan Royals, who currently occupy third place.
McCullum and his team will be hoping for a slip up from the Kings XI Punjab in their next game, but that looks decidedly unlikely. The current league leaders have been flawless so far, winning all five of their opening games, and they face bottom side Mumbai Indians next, who have yet to win in any of their matches to date.
Ahead of the clash between top and bottom, here’s how the standings are shaping up. We also take a brief glance at the leading players from the tournament so far and their chance of beating some competition records.
All statistics used are courtesy of ESPNCricinfo.com.
The standout batsman in the tournament so far has been King XI Punjab’s Glenn Maxwell.
At the time of writing, the Aussie has smashed a whopping 300 runs from his five matches at a run-rate in excess of two runs per ball.
The official Kings XI Twitter account’s recent tweet gave an indication as to how well Maxwell has been playing in this year’s competition:
It's been 2 weeks and 19 games since he took a seat there at the top. And no one has been able to shove him off yet! pic.twitter.com/YUh3aLWKFV— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) May 3, 2014
The Chennai Super Kings duo of Dwayne Smith and McCullum occupy second and third spots with overall totals of 256 and 249 respectively.
The narrative here is whether or not Maxwell can keep going at this rate. If he does, he’ll have a marvellous chance of becoming the highest ever run scorer in a single IPL series.
That current record belongs to Chris Gayle and Michael Hussey, who accumulated a total of 733 runs each in 2012 and 2013 respectively. It’s worth noting that Gayle achieved his total having played 15 games in 2012, two less than Hussey played in 2013.
Maxwell has already accumulated more than a third of Gayle’s total in a third of the games played, so he’s certainly on track to take that record. Two scores of 95 and another of 89 saw Maxwell take the tournament by storm in the opening weeks, but his last two knocks have yielded a measly total of 21 runs.
What record is most likely to be beaten?
If he has his eye on Gayle and Hussey’s totals of 733, he must rediscover his consistency as the tournament wears on. In his next match, he faces the bottom side in the competition, so he has an excellent chance to put some runs on the board.
In terms of wickets taken, it’s Gayle’s West Indian teammate Dwayne Bravo who holds the record for the most accumulated in a single series. Last year, Bravo snaffled an impressive 32 victims from just 18 matches.
His subtle variations of pace deliveries, slower balls and off-cutters makes Bravo a very difficult bowler to score off. He doesn't typically get his victims out due to brute force and dynamism, but he’ll often frustrate batsmen into rash shots.
Can any bowler from this year’s tournament get close to Bravo? Currently leading the way is Chennai’s Mohit Sharma. Here he is with the Purple Cap, awarded to the leading wicket-taker in the tournament:
Whistlepodu for Mohit pic.twitter.com/Voy5PWQBVA— russell (@russcsk) May 2, 2014
The Indian international has bagged himself 11 wickets in the competition so far, including remarkable figures of 4/14 in his team’s win against the Mumbai Indians. His teammate Ravindra Jadeja trails him by just one wicket in the overall standings, giving the Super Kings a formidable looking bowling line-up.
Jadeja is the player with the tools to potentially trouble Bravo's record. Like the West Indian, he too is an adaptable bowler, capable of mixing up his style and pace to unsettle a particular batsmen.
He will have to become more prolific if he wants to trouble Bravo's total, but as the tournament gets into the latter stages and batsmen become nervous, that's when the top bowlers come to the fore.