Chennai Super Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders
Friday 15 October 15.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Chennai have power
Chennai snapped a three-game losing streak to make it straight to the final with a brilliant chase against Delhi Capitals.
The Super Kings' decline looked terminal when they were set 173 to win but they made it to the showpiece with two balls remaining thanks, once again, to the brilliant young opener Ruturaj Gaikwad. He hit 70 from 50 balls.
Robin Uthappa's 63 from 44 was also key. His form has meant that the loss of Suresh Raina has been forgotten.
Batting is their strength. No team has scored at a faster rate in the tournament. They are more than solid with the ball but, on occasion, they can lose their way having three times conceded 170 or more.
Probable XI Gaikwad, Du Plessis, Uthappa, Moeen, Rayudu, Jadeja, Dhoni, Thakur, Bravo, D Chahar, Hazlewood
Kolkata were available at 36.035/1 on the exchange before a ball was bowled in Part Two. It's been quite a turnaround.
How have they done it? Intent has been the key. Coach Brendon McCullum let the hand-brake off and told his batters to play without fear. Central to that was picking Venkatesh Iyer, a young thruster of an opener. He has set the tone.
Apart from Iyer, personnel (or balance) hasn't really changed. They're still picking only five bowlers, a risky strategy but it's hardly going to be abandoned now.
They are waiting on a fitness test for Andre Russell but it seems unlikely they'd upset the XI even if he was available. Eoin Morgan's sequence of scores are appalling and he's now worth is place in the team for captaincy alone, apparently.
Probable XI Gill, V Iyer, Tripathi, Rana, Morgan, Karthik, Shakib-al-Hasan, Narine, Fergu-son, Mavi, Chakravarthy
The 12 first-innings scores in Dubai in the re-started tournament read (1-2 denote match won batting first or second, most recent first) read: 172-2/164-2/134-2/136-2/118-2/165-2/149-2/164-2/165-1/134-2/185-1/156-1.
Could these two teams buck the trend for low scores? In the last five head-to-heads more than 160 has been busted in each. CSK chased 171 in Abu Dhabi and in Mumbai in Part One they just about hung on to defend 220.
With batting (and belting) the strength of both teams it is not inconceivable that going over the runs line, so long as it settles in the mid 150s in line with tournament scores, is a bet. At the moment it's a little high at 159.5.
As predicted way back at the start of the second instalment (or rather as shown by previous data) a toss bias would emerge. Used wickets have got harder to bat on and the dew factor has made defending tricky.
The toss, then, is key. No wonder the market cannot split the pair. Chennai, who have won five of the last head-to-heads, are 1.991/1 and Kolkata just above 2.01/1. The team that chases will shorten to significant favourite.
How to play? Well, we don't want to be against the chaser. But we could still get with them with an early powerplay flurry at enhanced odds. Statistically that is most likely to be Chennai, who are the second most expensive in the tournament in the first six. Kolkata are the second meanest so the opportunity for their odds to tick up might not come.
Of course Kolkata are the champion chasers. Sometimes it comes so easily that they almost like to have an extreme collapse to make it interesting. See the 'semi-final' win over Delhi.
Chennai are our outright selection at 3.309/4. If they chase, happy days. If they don't the opportunity remains to take a profit on both sides.
Faf Du Plessis has a strong record against KKR, averaging a shade under 40 and striking at 129. Gaikwad, however, has taken 176 runs off them in just three knocks. The pair are 3/1 and 11/4 respectively for top Chennai bat.
There is a rick to take advantage of, though. Shardul Thakur was promoted to No 4 last time out which means he is no 100-1 shot. Thakur's clean hitting is attractive with Chennai keen to throw caution to the win because they bat so deep.
MS Dhoni is of interest. The 20s for top-bat is big on tournament form in the last three. But he's 16s for man of the match. Strange? Not really. If Chennai win India is so enthralled to the skipper that he could get the gong for getting a few fielding positions right.
For KKR we await the Russell news with interest with regard to top bat. He has routinely destroyed Chennai with a strike rate of a massive 178. The 7/1 offer from Sportsbook has appeal on win rates, too.
Sunil Narine will be popular on the man of the match market at 12s. Du Plessis and Gaikwad are at 8/1 and 9/1. Russell is 10/1.
World T20 Preview Part I on Cricket...Only Bettor