And then there were four.
After 14 Group Stage matches per side, we’ve found the last four. In order of how they finished, from first to fourth, they were: Gujarat Titans, Rajasthan Royals, Lucknow Super Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Falling by the wayside were last year’s champions CSK who could only manage to finish ninth, the most successful side in the IPL- the Mumbai Indians– who finished rock bottom and last year’s finalists the Kolkata Knight Riders, who couldn’t do any better than seventh.
The star-studded batting line-up of the Punjab Kings fell two points short of a playoff spot, while Delhi failed to win their must-win match against Mumbai and also missed out. Keep reading for our IPL betting options ahead of the playoffs and, of course, the final!
The importance of the Top 2 finish
Making the Playoffs is only half the battle. Because there’s a huge difference between finishing in the Top 2 and finishing third or fourth.
The teams finishing in the Top 2 (Gujarat and Rajasthan) will play each other in Qualifier 1 and the winner of that goes straight to the final. But the loser of that Qualifier 1 gets another bite of the cherry.
That’s because they’ll stay back to play the winner of the Eliminator, contested between Lucknow and Bangalore. The winner of Qualifier 2 is then the second side to make the final.
In summary, those finishing in the Top 2 need to either win two in a row (Qualifier 1 plus final) or two from three (lose Qualifier 1, win Qualifier 2, win final) while RCB are LSG will need to win three in a row (Eliminator, Qualifier 2 and then the final).
The curse of the Group Winner
You’d have thought that the winner of the Group Stages would often go on to win the whole thing. But think again.
Since 2011 when the two Qualifier matches and the Eliminator match replaced the format where it was just two straight semi-finals, the Group Stage winner has only gone on to win the IPL three times, which is just 3/10.
Quite why that’s happened so seldomly is hard to work out.
Maybe the sides peak too soon and then find it hard to keep those levels up once they get to the Playoffs. Or maybe it’s just a freakish occurrence.
Either way, it doesn’t bode particularly well for the Gujarat Titans. The Titans, by the way, lost to RCB so come into this match on the back of a defeat.
They’re the 2.5 favourites with Betway but we can find a better bet than that.
And here’s our Betway review where we tell you why we think this is one of the world’s best online betting sites.
Eliminator route is a struggle
And if there’s a sort of curse affecting the side who finishes top, then pure logic suggests it’s even harder to win the IPL when you finish outside the Top 2.
As we’ve just seen, you’ll need to win three games in a row to win it via the Eliminator and given those three games are against the best sides in the competition and you can see how hard it is to do.
That’s why only once since 2011 has the side fishing outside the Top 2 gone on to win the IPL that season.
Given that RCB (odds of 6.0) have been incredibly inconsistent all season, mixing up strong performances with very disappointing ones, and those IPL odds don’t make much appeal.
Three wins in a row looks a step too far for a team who is probably extremely lucky to have even made it this far already.
Lucknow (also odds of 6.0) look a better side than Bangalore and should at least win the Eliminator against Faf du Plessis’ men to give themselves a shot at making the final via the Qualifier 2.
But they’ve struggled a bit themselves, especially when KL Rahul has got out cheaply, so it may be out of their reach to win the whole of the IPL from this position, as well.
All falling into place for Rajasthan Royals
We’ve said already that the Group Stage winner has gone on to win just 3/10 since 2011.
So what about the runners-up from the Group Stages? Seven times in the past 10 seasons the runners-up have gone on to win it.
That’s good news for Rajasthan, then.
We’ve already said we prefer them to Gujarat in our Titans v Rajasthan match preview but it could be worth pushing the boat out and going for them to win the IPL outright at odds of 2.75 rather than just taking the 2.05 that they beat the Titans.
In Jos Buttler, they have a hot-favourite to be the Orange Cap winner and in Yuzvendra Chahal they also have the favourite to go on and win the Purple Cap, so that’s a pretty good start.
But they have other players come into form at just the right time.
Ravi Ashwin is fresh from a superb all-around performance against CSK where he bowled well and batted beautifully, youngster Yashasvi Jaiswal has batted well the last couple of matches, while with the ball Trent Boult has carried on taking early wickets and Obed McCoy has done well in the death overs.
So plenty of things are going in the Royals’ favour as we reach the business end of the tournament and they could just be the team to beat.