The 2014 Indian Premier League is producing as much excitement and tension as ever. There has been some immense run-scoring from individuals and teams as a whole. 200 is no longer an imposing target for most of these star-studded sides.
However, the 2014 IPL is starting to become polarised. Two teams are really leading the way at the top of the table, and a couple of sides at the bottom are seriously struggling. We are now well past the halfway stage in the IPL season, so each match becomes all the more important with semi-final places on the line.
Below we look at the next five fixtures in the T20 tournament and predict how they will turn out.
|15 May||3.30 p.m. BST/10.30 a.m. ET||Rajasthan Royals||v||Delhi Daredevils|
|18 May||11.30 a.m. BST/6.30 a.m. ET||Chennai Super Kings||v||Royal Challengers Bangalore|
|18 May||3.30 p.m. BST/10.30 a.m. ET||Sunrisers Hyderabad||v||Kolkata Knight Riders|
|19 May||11.30 a.m. BST/6.30 a.m. ET||Rajasthan Royals||v||Mumbai Indians|
|19 May||3.30 p.m. BST/10.30 a.m. ET||Delhi Daredevils||v||Kings XI Punjab|
Rajasthan Royals v Delhi Daredevils—Royals to Win
As mentioned, there are a couple of teams struggling to compete this year, and none more so than the Daredevils. They have won just two of their opening 10 contests and are on a five-game losing streak.
Delhi's big players are not firing, and their biggest, Kevin Pietersen, is certainly guilty of that. The former England batsman has managed just 130 runs in his seven innings this year, which is a very poor return for a man of his talent.
In contrast to the Daredevils, Rajasthan have been performing pretty well, if a little inconsistently. They find themselves in third place in the table and looking good for a semi-final spot, despite a couple of recent losses. Their Australian trio of Shane Watson, Steve Smith and James Faulkner are all doing a tremendous job for them, and they should continue to do so against Delhi.
Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore—CSK to Win
Bangalore have been the biggest disappointment of this year's IPL. They have an incredibly talented side but have just not produced the goods. A batting line-up featuring Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh should be winning plenty of games, but they have managed just four from 10 matches.
I must admit... Chris Gayle puts pressure on his openers when he doesn't score quickly early... Can't even get off strike #injured— Dean Jones (@ProfDeano) May 11, 2014
Chennai Super Kings are the most reliable team in the history of IPL, having reached the final in five out of the six years of the league's past. They too have a destructive set of batsmen, with Dwayne Smith performing brilliantly at the top of the order.
RCB have the talent to beat anyone on their day, but they are having so few that this will have to be another win for the Super Kings.
Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kolkata Knight Riders—Sunrisers to Win
A tougher one to call as these are two of the teams in mid-table that are fairly unpredictable. The Sunrisers appear to just have the edge over the Knight Riders, though, especially in the batting stakes.
David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shikhar Dhawan trump KKR's best three of Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey with the bat. Hyderabad also boast one of the best seam attacks in the IPL in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Dale Steyn, the former being the current Purple Cap holder.
Not just his bowling, his attitude is also impressive. Calm, hard working, and purple headed. Well done Bhuvneshwar Kumar.— gaurav kapur (@gauravkapur) May 8, 2014
There is not a lot in it, but there is more of an argument to back the home side in this one.
Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians—Royals to Win
Much could have changed by the time this match comes around, but Rajasthan look to easily have the edge over Mumbai at this stage. Rohit Sharma's Mumbai side may have improved significantly after losing its first five games, but it is still not in the same class as the Royals.
Mumbai's batting seems to be too temperamental, whilst Rajasthan's seems to be able to be relied upon. Having Lasith Malinga in their ranks, Mumbai will always be competitive, but Rajasthan have much more strength in depth.
Delhi Daredevils v Kings XI Punjab—Kings XI to Win
The Kings XI have been superb throughout this year's IPL, thanks largely to Glenn Maxwell. The Aussie has bludgeoned his way to 517 runs from just 10 innings at an eye-watering strike rate of 198.
500 - @Gmaxi_32 has recorded the 23rd instance of a player hitting 500 runs in an IPL season; he has the highest S/R on this list, 201. Hot.— OptaJim (@OptaJim) May 14, 2014
Maxwell has been ably assisted with the bat by the likes of George Bailey and Virender Sehwag, whilst bowlers such as Sandeep Sharma and Lakshmipathy Balaji have really stepped up to the plate.
As mentioned before, Delhi have been pretty useless thus far. Kings XI have been the opposite and should pick up a straight-forward win.
All stats provided by IPLT20.com