Punjab Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore
Sunday 27 March, 14:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Once Punjab have their strongest squad available they should be bang in contention for the title. But they will have to be patient.
They are without Kagiso Rabada and Jonny Bairstow for example. That opens up opportunities for Benny Howell and Bhanuka Rajapaksa respectively. Both are more than solid T20 players and suggests Punjab have, finally, recruited well.
Their strength is Indian domestic talent at the top of the order with Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal opening the batting. Liam Livingstone needs a breakthough IPL season, though. The same is true for West Indies all-rounder Odean Smith.
Both are extremely talented but there is some pressure on them to perform. Both men balance the side. Prab Singh takes the gloves in the absence of Bairstow.
Possible XI: Dhawan (17.47 boundary %), Agarwal (19.40), Rajapaksa, Livingstone (18.13), Odean Smith (18.37), Singh, Harpreet, Howell, Sandeep Sharma, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep
These early exchanges of the IPL are something of a phoney war with bench strength being tested. RCB, for example, are without their overseas core of Glenn Maxwell, Josh Hazlewood and Jason Behrendorff. No Aussies are allowed to play until April 6.
Sherfane Rutherford and David Willey could be the beneficiaries while there may be a spot for Kiwi opener Finn Allen.
Perhaps new skip's biggest problem is go-slow Virat Kohli. Of our projected top sixes across the tournament Kohli has the third lowest boundary percentage and the worst rate of any No 3.
Possible XI: Du Plessis (17.31 boundary %), Anuj Rawat (19.42), Kohli (11.89), Rutherford, Karthik (18.33), Hasaranga (28.68), Willey, Shahbaz, Harshal Patel, Kaul, Siraj.
The DY Patil Stadium was one for the bowlers the last time it hosted IPL matches back in 2011. There were only two scores of 160 or more in the first dig in seven games. But those games were too long ago to hang a bet on. Unfortunately they are all we've got to go on so this surface is a watching brief.
Punjab the pick
Punjab are slight outsiders at 2.0621/20 with Bangalore 1.875/6. This will be an early test for one of the more trusted IPL betting strategies down the years.
That is to lay RCB when odds-on. It's as much about ethos as playing personnel. RCB have always underachieved, largely because of the influence of Kohli, whose captaincy (tactically and management) appears to leave plenty to be desired.
It's a risk though because Kohli's influence on decisions is on the wane after he was replaced as skip. He can still do plenty of damage with the bat, though.
Punjab rate as value on the basis that with both sides losing key men, this looks a clear choice affair. We may even get 2.1011/10 when the market matures. Bet the match odds here here.
Dhawan has been boosted to 10/3 for top Punjab bat and in a match of unknows in terms of team changes and the wicket, it's a price that stands out like a beacon. Dhawan is one of the most reliable on this market in the tournament and he gives us a chunky edge on two-year win rate. Sure, he has competition in the form of the excellent Mayank Agarwal at 13/5 but value is value. Livingstone is 4/1.
Kohli is boosted to 13/5 but it won't be a surprise that we're leaving that alone. Instead Dinesh Karthik could be a bet at a chunky 14s.
On other markets, Arshdeep has appeal at 11/4 for top Punjab bowler. he's our pick over the series and with Rabada missing he should be clear favourite. He is likely to bowl at the death, too, picking up cheap wickets.
Last year's top tournament wicket-taker Harshal Patel is priced at 2/1 for top RCB. He is also 11/1 for the man of the match. Arshdeep is 18s. We're referencing those in case we get a bowler's dream.
Bet the Sportsbook markets here.