Sunrisers Hyderabad have the momentum but Matt Harris is expecting Virat Kohli to lead RCB to victory in Abu Dhabi on Friday...
"Ever since the first edition of the IPL back in 2008, we’ve been asking if this is Bangalore’s year."
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Friday November 6th, 14:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Sunrisers leave it late
Sunrisers Hyderabad had to win their last three group matches to be in with a chance of making the playoffs and, by doing just that, they have the momentum coming into Friday's eliminator. Much of the credit has gone to team selectors for including Wriddhiman Saha at the expense of Johnny Bairstow at the top of the order. The switch was largely carried out to accommodate Kane Williamson and Jason Holder as key overseas picks but Saha's 184 runs and tidy glovework have been a significant bonus.
Hyderabad have the option to bring back the explosive Bairstow for the more pedestrian Williamson but the balance seems to be set. Rashid Khan is containing and taking wickets while Holder's late inclusion has been a productive one following those early injury issues within the squad.
Bangalore set for elusive challenge
Ever since the first edition of the IPL back in 2008, we've been asking if this is Bangalore's year. The squad has contained some of the best T20 exponents in the game and with the national captain at the helm, they've been favourites for the title many times.
Lack of support for Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, Yuzvendra Chahal and the other star names has been an issue but their campaign this time has been a relatively low key one. While De Villiers has fired, the skipper has been largely out of touch with the bat and it's been down to debutant Devdutt Padikkal to provide the runs at the top of the order.
RCB also have a question over selection with Aaron Finch potentially returning. The Aussie opener was in poor form at the start of the tournament but, while his compatriot Josh Philippe has been a reasonable deputy, Finch is more capable of providing a match winning innings.
Abu Dhabi plays host
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi hosted 20 matches in the group stages and the surfaces returned an average first innings score of 162. A fun fact is that 162 is exactly the total made by Mumbai Indians on the opening day of IPL 13. It wasn't enough for Mumbai that day and the overall trend is for wins to go to the chasing side.
Recent indicators certainly suggest it's a good day to field first as seven of the last eight matches here have gone with the side batting second. The toss could, therefore, be vital ahead of the game.
Hyderabad's run of form has made David Warner's team the clear favourites for Friday at odds of 1.875/6. In contrast, Royal Challengers rather limped over the line and that's put Virat Kohli's men back at 2.1211/10.
It should be remembered Sunrisers' run of three straight wins included a five wicket victory over RCB on Saturday. SRH were chasing just 121 and that result rather underlines the current state of play within the two camps. Bangalore need to target the openers Warner and Saha and, they will also need a big contribution from one of several key batsmen at the top of the order. There are a number of 'ifs' in this equation but I'm backing Bangalore to come through.
While it may seem that Virat Kohli has endured a subdued tournament, RCB's skipper has top scored on five occasions in a run that includes an unbeaten 90 against Chennai. It's his own high standards that are the issue for a player who made 973 runs in 2016 and won the Orange Cap at a canter.
Kohli's price may just drift in Bangalore's top batsman market for Friday although early odds put him down as favourite at just 3.02/1. Other options include AB De Villiers at 4.03/1 and Devdutt Padikkal at 4.03/1 while Josh Philippe is showing at 5.04/1. I was hoping that Kohli may reach 3.55/2 or possibly higher but I believe he's the key to RCB's success so I'm sticking with the skipper.
For my overall plan to work, Royal Challengers need to dismiss both Wriddhiman Saha and David Warner cheaply inside the powerplay. The consistent Manish Pandey then steps in to take Sunrisers to a respectable, but not unassailable total.
Warner at 3.02/1 and Saha at 4.3100/30 lead the way in Hyderabad's top batsman market as Pandey eases out to become a value pick at odds of 5.04/1.
Matt Harris' IPL P/L
P/L: - 3.29pts