Week six of the IPL, the struggle for play-off places is over, and so is the involvement of most of England's representatives. Click here for week five's update.
Archer goes grossly under-rewarded after stunning displays
It's the World XI at one end, and Ilford 2nds at the other. Graham Gooch's famous appraisal of Sir Richard Hadlee's New Zealand has found a modern-day echo in the exploits of Jofra Archer, who has absolutely no right to be propping up the IPL table in the company of his under-performing Rajasthan Royals team-mates. True to this season's irresistible form, Archer signed off a stellar personal tournament with another incredible week, and in such a tight table, you have to wonder what a modicum of back-up could have done for Rajasthan's title hopes.
Instead, his 20 wickets at 18.25 were exactly half of the 40 claimed by his team's full stable of quick bowlers, with only the erratic rookie Kartik Tyagi providing any meaningful support with nine at 40.77. As for his economy rate of 6.55 - the best among any of the tournament's front-line quicks - that figure could have been exponentially lower had Rajasthan bitten the bullet (as they were often tempted) and trusted Archer with a third over in his favoured Powerplay (a phase of the game in which he produced a remarkable 10 wickets and an all-time low economy rate of 4.34). Instead, they chose to hold him back to paper over his team-mates' shortcomings at the death. In that role, Archer did take a few licks throughout the tournament, but he had his moments too - not least against Kings XI in perhaps his most symbolic moment of the tournament. One ball after being tonked over midwicket by the mighty Chris Gayle, Archer fired in the yorker to bowl the Universe Boss for 99, and received a hand-slap of mutual admiration for his efforts.
Morgan thwarted at the last after hitting top form
When KKR made their captaincy switch midway through the tournament, with Eoin Morgan taking over from Dinesh Karthik, the management might have thought they were signing up for ice-cool tactics in the clutch moments, as befits a man whose leadership credentials have gone through the roof since the World Cup. But as things turned out, Morgan barely got the chance to play any match-up poker, with KKR's fragile batting conspiring time and again to leave their own bowlers with no place to hide.
Instead, he was obliged to lead from the front - or middle, to be more accurate - with a range of cannily paced cameos keeping his team competitive to the bitter end, until Sunrisers' scalping of the table-topping Mumbai Indians denied them a play-off berth in the final group-stage game. Morgan's pièce de résistance was his final innings of the campaign, an outstanding 68 not out from 35 balls against Rajasthan, including five fours and six sixes, which dragged his side from a flaky 99 for 5 to a formidable 191 for 7. He saved his most savage blows for his England team-mate Ben Stokes, but showcased that icy temperament in the final over of the innings, as he twice turned down singles off Kartik Tyagi before thumping his final ball clean down the ground for six.
Stokes builds into opener's role but bowling remains erratic
After a low-key start to his truncated tournament, Ben Stokes found his range with the bat in the final rounds of Rajasthan's campaign, with two more feisty onslaughts following his breakthrough century against Mumbai Indians. His 25-ball 50 against Kings XI was a fierce injection of impetus that set up a comprehensive win, but his 18 from 11 against KKR proved to be the alpha and omega of his team's qualification hopes - while he was in situ, taking the attack to a rampant Pat Cummins, the prospect of a top-four slot was firmly on the cards. As soon as he was gone, those cards collapsed with a familiar flutter, as the team's inherent instability flooded to the fore once again.
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As for Stokes' bowling, it remains curiously impotent in this format, given what a game-changing influence he tends to be in Test and 50-over cricket. His one telling outing came against Kings, as he scalped the dangermen KL Rahul and Nicholas Pooran for his only wickets of the campaign. Two days later, he was left wondering once again why Kolkata's got it in for him - and why he ever consents to bowl at the death anymore - as Morgan and Pat Cummins combined to pump 24 runs from his third, and Rajasthan's 19th, over of their campaign-crippling loss.
Sam Curran coasts to the end of eye-catching campaign
An unremarkable week by his elevated standards, but a quietly impressive one all the same. Having gone from being a lone spark in a misfiring engine, Sam Curran reverted to being a useful cog in a belatedly revved-up machine, as CSK finished their tournament on a relative high with three wins in a row once their elimination had been confirmed. This week, he didn't take a wicket or bowl his full allocation of overs in either match, but Curran served up his total of five overs at a meagre cost of 36, and was also at the crease to help settle a tense chase against KKR - even though it was his not-out partner, Ravi Jadeja, who did the heavy lifting with three sixes and a four in the final eight balls of the game. But either way, after being pigeon-holed as a Test cricketer in his early England outings, Curran will travel to South Africa later this month with his white-ball credentials higher than they've ever been. And if CSK have any sense, he'll be at the heart of their rebuilding efforts when the next IPL rolls around in barely six months' time.
Bairstow benched after flat-lining form
Jonny B Gone. After his barnstorming 97 against Kings in week 3, it seemed that Jonny Bairstow was primed for mid-tournament lift-off. Instead, he's paid the price for mustering barely that many again in his next five games, culminating in a 20-ball 19 against the same opponents two weeks later, when his ill-timed sweep in a well-set run-chase exposed a flaky middle-order and precipitated an appalling collapse. It was all the evidence that Sunrisers needed to hurry Kane Williamson back off the bench, and Bairstow's fate was more permanently sealed when Wriddhiman Saha latched onto his opportunity at the top of the order, first with a blistering 85 from 47 against the previously high-flying Delhi Capitals, and then as David Warner's foil against Mumbai, as Sunrisers' brand-new bromance was sealed in an unbeaten 151-run opening stand, and a ten-wicket play-off-securing victory.
Jordan proves his value after sticky start to campaign
It wasn't to be in the end for Chris Jordan, or for Kings XI, whose remarkable late-season revival came so close to propelling them into the play-offs. After losing six of their first seven contests (including one Super Over and a two-run defeat), Kings were briefly installed as the tournament's form team with a run of five wins in a row, only for that illusion to be shattered in consecutive thumpings by Rajasthan and CSK. Nevertheless, from his somewhat abject beginnings, Jordan finished his own campaign very much in credit, nailing his yorkers and trusting his variations even as other seamers of his ilk were reverting to the basics. His two economical wickets against KKR set up the last of Kings' victories, while his third-ball removal of a hitherto rampant Stokes gave them a flicker of belief before the wheels came off. All told, Jordan claimed nine wickets at 33.77 in as many matches, but given that he went wicketless in his first three games while leaking his runs at nearly two a ball, his back-end record (average 18.77, economy 8.24) was far more to write home about.
Buttler runs out of rope with qualification on the line
Jos Buttler's final week of IPL action epitomised the frailties at the heart of Rajasthan's faltering campaign. His form was as good as it's been all tournament long, but his role - reappraised from opener to finisher after a succession of middle-order mishaps in the early rounds - was very much after the Lord Mayor's Show, for better and for worse. Against Kings, there could be no complaints about his impact as he rocked up in the 15th over and duly sealed a vital win with an unbeaten 22 from 11 balls; but against KKR, Rajasthan were 32 for 4 before he'd faced his first delivery, and 37 for 5 only moments after he'd laced the lethal Cummins for a first-ball drive through the covers. Even with his back to the wall, Buttler managed to rack up 35 from 22 before being forced into one boundary swipe too many. But then again, had he converted more of those sorts of scores from the top of the order, with contests begging to be seized in the early rounds, Buttler and his Rajasthan team-mates wouldn't have been left eating the scraps at the bottom of the table.
Banton, Curran, Moeen sit on the fringes
Tom Banton is set to swap six weeks on the fringes at KKR to a further three weeks as an England reserve in South Africa - which isn't quite the career progression he signed up for this winter. But Tom Curran, included in both ODI and T20I squads, will be hoping to show that his hard yakka on the UAE's variation-killing surfaces can reap better rewards on the more seam-friendly decks of Cape Town and Paarl. As for Moeen Ali, he - like Bairstow - is set to remain at the IPL for a few days longer than the rest of the England squad, but his chances of being involved in the play-offs are considerably skinnier.