Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings: Defending champions have a considerable edge

Chennai Super Kings cricketer M.S.Dhoni
Dhoni is CSK's leading runscorer so far

Table-topping Chennai play struggling Rajasthan on Thursday and Paul Krishnamurty predicts the formbook will stand up on a pitch that should suit the visiting bowlers...

"Chennai thoroughly deserve favouritism at 1.794/5...this Jaipur pitch is very slow and should be just as conducive to the wizardry of Tahir and co."

Back Chennai @ 1.794/5

Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings
Thursday, 15:30 GMT
Live on BT Sport and Star Gold (Sky Channel 729)

Royals urgently need a win to stay in touch

It is still too early to completely write teams off but Rajasthan's season increasingly looks like revolving around a race to avoid finishing bottom. With one win from five, this is a must win to stay in touch with all bar pointless RCB.

Sunday's one-sided loss to KKR was a bitterly disappointing performance and result. Buttler and Smith had built a platform for a decent total but a terrible strike rate at the death - Ben Stokes and Rahul Tripathi used up 22 balls without a boundary - left them well short.

Chennai spin trio are in dominant mood

A facile win over KKR made it five from six for the defending champions and remain comfortably on course to at least maintain their 100% play-off appearance record. Everything went their way from the toss to early wickets.

Some hope for the rest could lie in CSK having five away matches left compared to three at home. An extremely slow Chennai pitch is absolutely perfect for Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Ravi Jadeja, who may prove less dominant elsewhere.

Par lower than usual on slow deck

Rajasthan's 139 on Sunday was the lowest first innings score since Jaipur returned to the IPL schedule last year. Eight of the ten innings landed in between 150 and 180 - notably more consistent than most grounds.

The pitch was slow last time so perhaps par is currently in the lower end of that middle - around 160.

Chennai bowlers to thrive again on Jaipur surface

The last ten Jaipur matches were shared five apiece between the side batting or bowling first, so there's no obvious toss advantage. As always, however, check pre-match reports regarding the dew factor.

With all those things equal, Chennai thoroughly deserve favouritism at 1.794/5 on the exchange. Granted, they may be less dominant away from home, but this Jaipur pitch is very slow and should be just as conducive to the wizardry of Tahir and co.

Du Plessis can lead from the front

Averaging just 17.5 from six innings, 11/4 favourite Shane Watson makes no appeal to top score for Chennai. Suresh Raina hasn't really fired yet either, leaving the heroics to M.S.Dhoni. Those two CSK legends are 7/2 and 6/1 respectively.

Faf Du Plessis is 7/2 to repeat Tuesday's win in this market - attractive odds considering the South African is opening. I must also reiterate previous comments that 50/1 about Mitchell Santner is too big in this format.

Buttler the one to beat for Royals

Steve Smith finished top scorer for Rajasthan against KKR and the Aussie is 7/2 for a repeat, behind Jos Buttler at 13/5. They urgently need Sanju Samson back from injury and if he plays, 4/1 is available.

Bowlers good value to top sixes charts

An interesting side market involves naming the player to hit the most sixes. This may be more wide-open than it first appears. This is not a six-hitting ground - ten in total would be a high estimate.

What that means is that a tail-ender could well win it merely by slogging during the death overs. Two might even be enough.

Of those listed, I like three bowlers - Jofra Archer at 25/1, Ravi Jadeja at 33/1 and Harbhajan Singh at 40/1. All can hit a long ball.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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