The IPL match between Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiant offers two struggling sides the chance of much needed points. James Buttler think RPS will prevail...
"Pune are playing a Lions side that if it's first two IPL matches had been football games, they did they equivalent of losing 6-0 and 5-0. Gujarat have offered nothing so far"
The Lions have been seriously disappointing. They lost both games played, but it's the nature of those defeats that highlights the weaknesses in their side, particularly in the bowling department. They've been butchered by 10 wickets by KKR and 9 wickets by SRH and need a rapid injection of confidence.
The balance of their side has confused me. They have so much quality in the overseas batting that they've chosen to shoe-horn Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Jason Roy and Aaron Finch into their playing XI and consequently been forced to entrust important overs to largely unproven Indian domestic talent. We've yet to see the likes of James Faulkner and Andrew Tye who could add much needed experience and nous in the field.
Ravindra Jadeja looks set to return from injury and that is certainly a step in the right direction. I'd be surprised if he's the only change to their playing XI on Friday.
Rising Pune Supergiant
RPS are another side that have been far from convincing in their three games in IPL 2017. After skipper Steven Smith inspired a narrow victory against Mumbai Indians they've suffered successive defeats to Kings XI Punjab, by six wickets, and Delhi Daredevils, by 97 runs.
Smith missed the last match through illness and I doubt the team doctor has left his side in a bid to get him back on his feet as soon as possible. He's crucial to Pune's chances, both with bat and as their leader. Batsman Manoj Tiwary is now available after the death of his father.
The £1.7million man, Ben Stokes, has taken some clobber with the ball and made one meaningful contribution with the bat. There is pressure on him to prove his price tag.
With both sides at the wrong end of the table the team that loses this match faces a tough IPL season. The fact that the Betfair odds compilers have this game as a 'pick 'em' with both teams priced at 10/11 on Sportsbook to win the match illustrates how unconvincing RPS have been. I say that because Gujarat Lions have been so weak in the field that even Geoffrey Boycott's mum and her stick of rhubarb could have taken them to the cleaners.
In the two previous meeting between these sides last season the Lions won both games, but they were beating everyone last year and ultimately topped the table. That won't happen 2017. RPS will have been stung by their recent defeats and I expect them to bounce back with a win here. Pune are playing a Lions side that if it's first two IPL matches had been football games, they did they equivalent of losing 6-0 and 5-0. Gujarat have offered nothing so far and the [2.0] on the Exchange for RPS to take the points holds significant appeal.
Top Gujarat Batsman
Gujarat have invested heavily in their batting and their task is to rack up a score their bowlers have a chance of defending. So far we've only seen glimpses from Roy, McCullum and Finch. Captain Suresh Raina scored a very scratchy fifty in their first game, but looks out of sorts. The player who has impressed the most is Dinesh Karthik who at 15/2 offers significant value. There is always a danger when backing someone down the order that they get limited opportunity, or don't get in. The Lions are not batting well enough so far for that to be a concern.
Top Rising Pune Supergiant Batsman
The bet here is always Steven Smith at 5/2, assuming he plays. If he's recovered from illness he is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of quality. Ben Stokes had one fifty to his name and gets his runs quickly so is also a consideration at 5/1. Ajinkya Rahane bats properly for his T20 runs and minimises risk, but at 13/5 is too short for my taste.
Total Match Sixes
Both sides' strongest suit is their batting and they have many maximum men. The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium pitch at Rajkot tends to favour the bat and I think this could be a high scoring encounter. I like the look of over 12.5 match sixes at 4/5.
Man of the Match
It may be a pitch that favours the bat, but Imran Tahir's leg-spin bowling has been exceptional so far in the competition. It's a nibbly bet, but there is value in this market if you get it right. Someone like Tahir can change a game and if he were to win man of the match he's a 14/1 shot as is Ravindra Jadeja on his return to action.
2pts Back Rising Pune Supergiant to win the match at [2.00] (Exchange)
0.5pts Imran Tahir to be Man of the Match at 14/1 (Sportsbook)
1pt Dinesh Karthik be Top Gujarat Lions Runscorer at 15/2 (Sportsbook)
*Follow James on Twitter: @cricket_badger
James Buttler at IPL 2017