Chennai march on to yet another knock-out

MS Dhoni finished the game for Chennai Super Kings BCCI

The group stage of the IPL is rapidly drawing to a close, and the race for the play-offs is starting to get especially hot. Of the eight teams in the competition, only one - Delhi Daredevils - is completely out of the reckoning, while only Sunrisers Hyderabad and those seasoned final-four campaigners, Chennai Super Kings, are guaranteed their place in the knock-outs.

Of those, it is Chennai who are currently the bookies' favourites at 7/4. They endured a ban from the competition in recent years, but on every single occasion in which they've made the starting grid, they've been there in the closing stages, and despite being long in the tooth as a squad, MS Dhoni's side have displayed timeless brilliance when it matters.

Close behind them in the betting are Sunrisers, who made light of the loss of David Warner as their franchise captain in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, and have marched with serenity to the top of the table.

Thereafter things get a little less clear-cut. Kolkata Knight Riders are all but assured of their play-off place, and are nestled in at 11/2, but it's a scramble for the final berth, with Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore all harbouring hopes of scraping over the line.

Of those, the rank outsiders are Rajasthan, who are an inviting 33/1 to lift the title. Only days ago they were the team on the march, powered in particular by the whirling blade of Jos Buttler, whose five consecutive fifties ignited their late-season challenge.

However, Buttler's endeavours have since been spotted elsewhere. He's earned a recall to England's Test squad at Lord's next week, and with Ben Stokes also flying home from the tournament, their team has been stripped of two talismanic presences. The momentum that Buttler established may yet endure, but he's been a mighty tough act to follow.