Both these sides are fresh from home losses but, in a battle of two powerful batting line-ups on Friday the preference goes for the visitors, who are stronger in the field, says Jamie Pacheco...
"But there are further reasons why Rajasthan are worth a punt. If we accept the two batting line-ups are similar in terms of ability, then the Royals have the edge with the ball, with their bowlers boasting a better economy rate."
Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals
Friday April 20 15:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Where's the Plan B, Chennai?
It's pretty obvious what Chennai's gameplan is. Bowl first whenever they can, restrict the opposition as best they can and unleash their potent batting line-up on the other team's bowlers.
It worked for the first two matches with first Dwayne Bravo and then Sam Billings mastering the run chase, but not the third time. In that case it was MS Dhoni who was at the crease with the chance to pull off the heist but as has often been the case for the past three or four years, he didn't quite manage it. You get the feeling that back in, say, 2012 he would have done with a ball to spare.
But Chennai can't always rely on being able to chase. The best teams are almost equally comfortable batting first or last. Even if they do get to chase they'll have to work on keeping the target they're chasing more manageable. It's quite surprising that they're conceding as many as they are because on paper a bowling line up of: Shane Watson, Imran Tahir, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh and SN Thakur... should be keeping things under control.
We'll have to wait and see whether Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis is fit to play at last. He may not play even if he is.
Royals look a little batting heavy
That the Royals didn't defend 160 at home to Kolkata shouldn't have come as any huge surprise. It's not in their bowling that their strength lies.
What did come as a surprise was that they didn't post more than that. Sanju Samson had a rare off day with the bat while both Ajinkya Rahane and D'Arcy Short were guilty of making starts but not kicking on.
England pair Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler contributed 38 runs between them and scored their runs at a decent lick but neither of them has really made a significant contribution with the bat so far this IPL. Maybe one (or both) of them would benefit from a promotion up the order just to see if that brings a change of fortune. Buttler could open, Stokes could bat at three.
If they want to change personnel in addition to just batting positions, maybe the Royals' Management should listen to Ed Hawkins' advice and play leg-spinner Ish Sodhi or even Jofra Archer. They seem to be lacking a gun bowler who can change a game.
A lot of what I said ahead of Rajasthan's trip to Bangalore last weekend rings true here. I said that was a shoot-out between two long and powerful batting line-ups and that whoever came out on top between the batters would win the game. And so it proved, with Rajasthan posting a monster total and Chennai coming close to chasing it despite the constant loss of wickets.
So if it's not far off being a coin toss, it's pretty obvious where the value lies.
But there are further reasons why Rajasthan are worth a punt. If we accept the two batting line-ups are similar in terms of ability, then the Royals have the edge with the ball, with their bowlers boasting a better economy rate.
You could also make a case for the Royals being better in the field. That may not be the difference between winning and losing a Test match but it could certainly tip the balance in T20 cricket. In this regard Chennai are a slightly odd outfit. In Bravo and Jadeja they boast two of the best fielders in the world but in the likes of Harbhajan, Tahir and Watson they have some pretty weary bodies who cost their team runs.
Lastly, it's worth remembering that Chennai are at home...but they're not. The game will be in Pune after the IPL ruled they're not allowed to play any more games in Chennai due to security issues.
The Royals are very much the bet at [2.2].
Chennai's hell-for-leather approach with the bat means that of the six players to have scored more than 40 runs from three games, two of them are striking at over 200 (Bravo, Billings) and all of them at over 125, which is impressive. Although it should be pointed out that given the huge scores they've had to chase, they've had no option but to go at it that hard.
But when betting on a top batsman market there are no prizes for having the player with the highest strike rate. And with that in mind, it could pay to go with Ambati Rayudu, who strikes at 'just' 137 in this tournament so far. Not only is he first on Chennai's list for most runs (110, just one run ahead of Dhoni) but as an opener he doesn't need to be that aggressive to win this market; he just needs to hang around. Rayudu is an attractive 10/3.
Shane Watson is one of those strange cricketers who has been an incredibly consistent player for well over a decade as a genuine all-rounder but has rarely been a fans' favourite with any of the sides he's played for: Australia, Sydney Thunder, Rajasthan, Bangalore...Chennai.
But a top bowler market isn't a popularity contest. Watson has been Chennai's best bowler so far, taking five wickets - more than any other Chennai player- and boasting a decent economy rate of 8.30. Only Harbhajan can better it (8.25).
Dhoni has mixed things around, using eight bowlers so far, but Watson has bowled as many overs as possible and should bowl his full quota again here. Like Rayudu for top bat, he ticks all the boxes for top bowler, especially when somewhat inexplicably, he's the biggest price of any of the Chennai bowlers at 4/1.
Jamie's IPL 2018 P/L
Staked: 5 pts
Returned: 13 pts
P&L: +8 pts
*Correct as of April 18*