Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab: Back Kolkata to edge this vital clash

Sunil Narine
Sunil Narine's return has given KKR a boost as they aim for the playoffs

Monday's game in Sharjah is crucial in terms of playoff qualification and Matt Harris is backing the Knight Riders to claim the points...

"One of the bigger issues facing all sides is the ability to get the correct overseas picks in to balance the team and Kings XI seem to have got it right at the perfect time."

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab
Monday October 26, 14:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Knight Riders reinforced

Sunil Narine's return gave KKR a much-needed boost as the side eased past Delhi on Saturday to hang on to fourth place. The West Indian was expensive with the ball but his 64 from 32 deliveries blitzed Kolkata to an unassailable total of 194. In Andre Russell's continuing absence, Narine looks a better option at number five now that new ball attacks are finally working out his pinch hitter role.

With Nitish Rana hitting form against the Capitals and Eoin Morgan to follow Narine, the Knight Riders' batting unit looks more solid but they will, at some point, need contributions from former skipper Dinesh Karthik who failed once again.

Kings creating miracles

KXIP's 126/7 against Sunrisers was the lowest successfully-defended total of the tournament so far. After an expensive start to the competition, Chris Jordan was brought back in and, in tandem with Arshdeep Singh, the English seamer pulled off one of the most miraculous wins in IPL history.

One of the bigger issues facing all sides is the ability to get the correct overseas picks in to balance the team and Kings XI seem to have got it right at the perfect time. Four wins from four has fired their playoff charge and with Jordan, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran backing up the in-form domestic players, the only question now is whether to persist with the misfiring Glenn Maxwell.

Sharjah's subdued surface

After team totals regularly passed 200 on its playground dimension boundaries, scores have slowed at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium of late. Chennai's 114/9 against Mumbai on Friday was the lowest contribution but the average first innings score here remains healthy at 190.

The last three games on this surface have gone to the chasing side so the toss could be important but overall wins have been evenly split between the teams taking first and second knocks.

KKR edge tight match market

Just two points separate these two sides and the momentum is with Kings XI but it's KKR who lead the way in the match betting. Eoin Morgan's team are available at 1.875/6 while KL Rahul's KXIP are marginally behind at 2.01/1.

This could have been tighter and is one of the toughest calls of the tournament so far. Kolkata were my initial preference but there has been an overreliance on their batsmen due to expensive efforts with the ball from key bowlers Narine and Russell. Kings XI's resurgence makes it tempting to back the outsiders but a better display from the attack, led by Varun Chakravarthy's 5/20, suggests that the Knight Riders are better balanced as they go into the match.

It's rarely wise to change your mind so KKR are the pick.

Rahul to lead by example

Kings XI's top batsman market should be a tight one with Rahul, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal all set to go off at around the 3.55/2 mark. For outside value, Nicholas Pooran at 4.57/2 could be the pick but the winner is likely to come from the top three.

I do have a preference for picking captains in this market and, while Dinesh Karthik produced a woeful reminder that the strategy doesn't always work, Rahul is the selection this time. KXIP's skipper has three factors in his favour: He's due a score, he needs to lead by example as Kings aim for the playoffs and, he has to stay clear in the race for the Orange Cap.

Kings to clear the ropes

As always, there is great choice in terms of a third bet for this game and I would be tempted to look at the Century in Match market. Sharjah remains a high-scoring surface and two sides with in-form batsmen could find at least one player to go past three figures.

At around 6.5, this could be a tempter but a less flamboyant option would be to take Kings XI Punjab to hit the most sixes. We've gone for two favourites so far so we need some balance and, at odds of around 2.111/10, the power hitting in the Kings camp makes them value outsiders.

Matt Harris' IPL P/L

Staked: 18pts
Returns: 19.51pts
P/L: +1.51pts

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