Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings: Back CSK to pull clear at the top

MS Dhoni
Matt Harris is backing MS Dhoni to lead CSK to another win in Kolkata on Thursday
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Both KKR and the Super Kings will be confident of reaching the next stage of IPL 11 but Matt Harris expects Chennai's batting depth to seal the points on Thursday...

"CSK currently have three players in the top seven leading run scorers at IPL 11 and that underlines the strength that has taken them to the top of the table."

Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings
Thursday, 15:30 BST

Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Mixed Form for KKR

The Knight Riders currently occupy the final playoff place but come into this game with a mixed record of four wins and four defeats from eight. Before a ball was bowled, KKR's lack of squad depth was questioned and that run leaves Dinesh Karthik's side looking nervously at the chasing pack.

The positive news is while there were concerns over Andre Russell and Chris Lynn in particular, both have remained injury free to date but Kolkata seem to lack cover for anyone out of form. The normally consistent Robin Uthappa has yet to consistently contribute with the bat and while the Knight Riders arguably possess the best slow bowling attack at the IPL, seam is less impressive with Mitchell Johnson and Tom Curran rotated to little effect.

This all means that KKR have had to rely too heavily on Sunil Narine in his pinch hitting role while Russell has bowled more overs than necessary and that lack of depth could cost the hosts on Thursday.

Chennai's Batting Depth

CSK currently have three players in the top seven leading run scorers at IPL 11 and that underlines the strength that has taken them to the top of the table. Ambati Rayudu leads the race for the Orange Cap with Shane Watson and MS Dhoni also in contention and it's that depth of batting that KKR will need to overcome on Thursday.

Watson should arguably have been dismissed on the first ball of the match against Delhi last time out but even if the openers depart early, Raina and Rayudu follow and then there's Dhoni who has only been dismissed four times in eight knocks.

In contrast, no single CSK bowler appears in the Top Ten wicket takers and Dhoni himself has expressed concern over his attack's ability to contain at the death. Chennai are almost certain of a place in the knockouts but bowling remains an issue.

Home Discomfort

Kolkata's mixed form extends to their home ground at Eden Gardens where they have lost two of their four games to date. The average first innings score in those matches stands at a healthy 176 and three wins have gone to the side batting second although Duckworth Lewis claimed an assist for Kings XI Punjab.

Rain is forecast once again but if we are allowed a full game then it should be a case of winning the toss, inserting and looking to keep the opposition some way below that 176 average.

Teams Tough to Split

At the time of writing, the Exchange can't split these two sides with both CSK and the Knight Riders available at the same win odds of [1.98]. I had expected Chennai to be marginally ahead and the problem for KKR is that there is no one key wicket with Watson, Rayudu, Dhoni and others coming at the attack relentlessly with Dwayne Bravo still padded up and in the shed.

We've all learned to ignore weather forecasts no matter where we are in the world but if this rather bleak prediction does come true, we may have some interruptions in Kolkata. I'll certainly be waiting for the toss before my hand disengages from my own pocket in case there is the threat of a Duckworth Lewis lottery but CSK are my pick over 40 overs.

Yellow Targets Orange

The men in yellow are battling amongst themselves for the Orange Cap as this season's leading run scorer but Ambati Rayudu has been the most impressive of CSK's batsman.

At 32 he's making a late claim to resurrect his international limited overs career and while there may be too many options in this market for some punters, Rayudu's consistency makes him my recommended bet at [4.3].

KKR to Blast Off Early

While I wouldn't nominate Sunil Narine to bat for my life, he has been oddly reliable for the Knight Riders and along with Chris Lynn, the pinch hitter forms one of the most explosive opening pairs in this tournament.

KKR's problems occur later on but if Narine and Lynn can stay together, they will provide some value in the Highest Six Over Total market at around [2.1] as opposed to favourites Chennai at [1.8] or possibly shorter.

Matt Harris' IPL 2018 P/L

Staked: 18pts
Returns: 18.39pts
P/L: +0.39pts

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