Mumbai Indians take on Delhi Capitals in the final of IPL 2020 in Dubai on Tuesday - Richard Mann has four bets in his in-depth preview.
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In a repeat of Thursday's Qualifier 1, Mumbai Indians will take on Delhi Capitals in the final of IPL 2020 on Tuesday and Rohit Sharma's star-studded team can once again prove too strong and claim back-to-back IPL titles.
Despite Delhi failing to match Mumbai in all departments last week - just as was the case in the two league matches between the sides earlier in the competition - this feels like the right final, pitching the two top placed sides in the league table and the two best bowling attacks against each other.
Mumbai's own attack is led by the brilliant Jasprit Bumrah who, fitness permitting, can't be far away from being hailed as the best all-form bowler in the world, and his partnership with New Zealand left-arm paceman Trent Boult has thrived in recent weeks. With Boult swinging the new ball with excellent control and wonderful craft, and Bumrah able to produce slippery pace and pinpoint yorkers on demand, putting Mumbai under significant pressure in the field has proved a mighty task.
Delhi boast a pretty formidable bowling attack, too, with South Africa pace duo Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje enjoying fine tournaments themselves and probably being the quickest opening pair throughout the competition.
Rabada picked up four wickets to derail Sunrisers Hyderabad's spirited run chase on Sunday and send Delhi into the final, taking his tally of wickets to 29 for the season and putting him two clear of Bumrah at the top of the IPL wicket charts.
Both pace attacks are complimented by spin - Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar for Mumbai and Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel for Delhi - and how both captains use these wily operators could go some way to deciding the outcome of the match.
For instance, Delhi finally made the call to open the batting with Marcus Stoinis on Sunday - a role he has performed with great success for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash- and he responded with a typically muscular 38 from 27 balls that paved the way for his side's victory. However, Stoinis' preference for facing pace over spin is now well-documented and Sunrisers' captain David Warner might well regret holding back wrist spinner Rashid Khan in that match until after the powerplay had finished.
Should, as expected, Stoinis again be asked to open the batting alongside Shikhar Dhawan in the final, Rohit will surely be tempted to get his spinners into the game early on, but that might not please Boult too much given he has made the new ball talk in recent matches and picked up 2-9 from his two overs against Delhi in Qualifier 1.
It presents a real conundrum for Rohit as both of his main spinners are likely to cause Stoinis problems early in his innings but the right-hand-left-hand combination with Dhawan complicates matters, as both Pandya and Chahar spin the ball into the left-handed Dhawan who loves to slog sweep the spinners. With the fielding restrictions in the first six overs making his spinners vulnerable to Dhawan, Rohit will need to decide whether cutting the head off Stoinis is more important than containing his in-form opening partner who has already made two centuries in this year's competition.
The Delhi think tank have similar decisions to consider with Mumbai opening batsman Quinton de Kock so impressive this year - 483 runs at a strike-rate of 139.59 - but particularly against pace when his swashbuckling back-foot game can be seen at its best. The South African could really hurt Delhi if getting going early but he has never been as comfortable against spin, particularly off spin, and the fact that Ashwin has dismissed him twice in three matches already this term might persuade Delhi to open the bowling with the veteran spinner on Tuesday.
Such decisions are where matches, or in this case, IPL titles, can be won or lost and bring more fascinating dimensions to a match that already promises plenty. Rohit, of course, has been here before having led Mumbai to four IPL titles already, including last year, but his opposite number, Shreyas Iyer is a young man still finding his way and it appears that it is Delhi head coach Ricky Ponting who who will be making many of these big calls. Nevertheless, Ponting can't be out on the field with Iyer and Rohit and Mumbai's experience of winning these big finals must not be underestimated.
Ahead of a contest that already promises plenty of intriguing battles and match-ups, it isn't forgotten that Rohit's revered captaincy was actually born and nurtured under the watchful eye of Ponting. It was back in 2013 when Ponting was signed by the franchise to captain the side following his retirement from international cricket, but following a run of low scores the Australian opting to drop himself from the team, deciding to assist then head coach John Wright and allow Rohit to take over the reins. Mumbai won the IPL for the first time that year and Ponting was appointed head coach soon after before making the switch to Delhi three years ago.
The rest is history, Mumbai becoming very much Rohit's team and its subsequent success owing much to his captaincy, while Ponting has picked up perennial strugglers Delhi and transformed them into one of the strongest and most consistent outfits in the IPL. Once friends, teammates, and colleagues, Rohit and Ponting will be foes on Tuesday in another subplot that makes this IPL final one of the most fascinating in recent memory.
Ponting is sure to have Iyer as well prepared as he can to face up to whatever challenges Rohit's tactical brain might throw at Delhi, and with both bowling attacks boasting impressive firepower, this final might well be decided by the strength of the two batting line-ups.
As already alluded to, Delhi have been heavily reliant on Dhawan, Stoinis and Iyer but that is a pretty formidable top three while late runs for Shimron Hetmyer on Sunday were particularly timely given Rishabh Pant continues to struggle for his best form.
A score of 189-3 against a smart Sunrisers attack there means Delhi head into the final confident in their batting stocks, but the feeling remains that they can't quite match Mumbai for class, muscle and depth in this department.
Mumbai really do have all boxes ticked with Rohit and de Kock forming a formidable opening partnership before the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan enter the fray. With Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers adding the late fireworks, there really is no chinks to this batting line-up. If one doesn't get you, another probably will.
On batting depth alone, Mumbai deserve to be favourites, that and because of their priceless experience of winning IPL finals, not to mention their three defeats over Delhi already this season. 7/10 isn't to be sniffed at, for all backing odds-on in T20 cricket doesn't always sit right with me.
In the sub markets, I'm really keen to have Bumrah on side in the top Mumbai bowler market. Bumrah has obliged in this market in three of Mumbai's last four outings - he was rested for the recent loss to Sunrisers - and two of those matches came against Delhi. Furthermore, the possibility that Mumbai might opt for spin against Stoinis early in his innings means Bumrah may be required to bowl more of his overs in the slog overs, when picking up late wickets with his deadly yorkers becomes more likely. This only heightens his appeal.
Bumrah took his time to find form this season but he has been outstanding in recent weeks and I fancy him to bowl Mumbai to victory, just as he did in last year's final when his figures of 4-0-14-2 helped his side defend 149 against Chennai Super Kings and earned him the Man of the Match award. Bumrah is 12/1 with Sky Bet to pick up the Man of the Match award again, and with Mumbai deserved favourites to win the match, that warrants a small investment, too.
The final bet of the match comes in the top Delhi bowler market with Rabada worth backing at 9/4.
I made the case a few weeks ago that sticking with pace in these markets was the way to go - even if the spinners were proving more economical - and Rabada and Nortje have dominated this market for Delhi this season.
Both bowl equally well up front and at the death but Rabada still leads Nortje by 29 scalps to 20 this term and his four-wicket haul on Sunday confirms he comes into this one on song and full of confidence. He looks the bet at 9/4.
Posted at 1410 BST on 09/11/20