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Indian Premier League: How Jos Buttler underlined T20 World Cup value and the standout teams so far

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Indian Premier League: How Jos Buttler underlined T20 World Cup value and the standout teams so far

And just like that, we are over a third of the way through the group stage.

The IPL is a long, hard slog of a tournament but once it gets going, the games seem to fly by. Thankfully for England fans, their main man has finally hit form.

Jos Buttler looked badly out of sorts in his first three innings and did so again early on against the Royal Challengers. But then something clicked. Within the blink of an eye, he was hitting the winning runs to walk off the field with a 58-ball hundred and the adulation of the Jaipur crowd ringing in his ears.

The funny thing was, this was nowhere near peak Buttler. It wasn't one of those innings where everything seems to be hitting the middle of the bat and the bowlers look powerless.

And yet Buttler is that good that he can still produce a match-winning knock that even trumped a brilliant hundred from Virat Kohli. There are higher gears to come but it was a reminder of how badly England need him at the T20 World Cup.

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Looking at the table we may well be in for a thrilling second half of the season with a few of the top contenders looking quite evenly matched.

Rajasthan are proving the old adage that bowling attacks win you T20 matches, and I don't think they will fade away badly like they did last year.

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Gujarat are the only team to beat them so far and that is with just one innings of note between Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal combined.

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Both the Knight Riders and Sunrisers look like they can overpower any team with their batting.

The Super Giants have two match winners in Quinton de Kock and Nicholas Pooran and look a team that might be better suited to low-scoring games on slower pitches, which is handy as that is exactly what they have in Lucknow.

Chennai have some new faces but still look a typical Super Kings side - a miserly spin attack, fast bowlers with good slower balls and a solid opening pair. I would be shocked if they don't finish in the top four.

Gujarat have been a hit and miss this year - to my mind they look significantly weaker than last year - but should still be in the mix for a Play Off place.

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Mumbai have got off to their customary slow start, but I expect them to improve now that Suryakumar Yadav is back. I picked them to lift the trophy at the start of the tournament and I'm not going to change that just yet!

One thing that has really stood out so far is the number of emerging Indian power hitters in the middle order.

Traditionally franchises have tended to use overseas batters to clear the ropes at the back end of the innings, the likes of Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and David Miller being three of the best examples over the years.

But having a local player or two who can perform that role makes a big difference as it means you can balance your team with more overseas bowlers or top order batters if needed.

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Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma pulled off an incredible chase for the Kings against the Titans and then almost did the same against the Sunrisers. Nitish Kumar Reddy showed his talent and power for Hyderabad in the same match and further up the order there have been impressive knocks from Kolkata's 18-year-old Angkrish Raghuvanshi and Mumbai's Naman Dhir.

The one to really keep an eye on though is Riyan Parag.

At just 22 years old he has already played over 100 T20 matches and having been part of the Royals' squad for approaching six years he is finally realising his immense potential with some match winning innings from number four.

Expect to see him in an India shirt soon.

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