Kolkata Knight Riders v Gujarat Lions
Live on Sky Sports 2
Kolkata Knight Riders
Barring a brain fade with the ball when defending a more than decent total in Mumbai, Kolkata have been flawless. Four wins from five matches in a competition where anyone can beat anyone is an excellent return and skipper Gautam Gambhir knows his side are closing in on a Play-Off place. He also knows the importance of finishing in the Top Two so there will be no holding back on the intensity levels.
It's their all-round ability that made them Ed Hawkins' pick to win it outright at a huge price and that wager is looking very good indeed. But they could have been an even better side, had Chris Lynn not suffered a recurrence of the shoulder injury that threatens to limit his progress as one of the best T20 top-order batsmen in the world.
Indeed, Kolkata's only dilemma (and problem area) is who to open alongside Gambhir. Sunil Narine has done the job in the right spirit, trying to hit out or get out but the experiment with Colin de Grandhomme as an opener failed last time out. I can see why they like the big-hitting Kiwi all-rounder in the side but with overseas all-rounders Chris Woakes and Nathan Coulter-Nile also there, they may opt to give the loyal Kolkata servant that is Shakib Al-Hasan a game.
It's anyone's guess who will open alongside the skipper for this one.
Gujarat are bottom of the pile. That should come as no surprise to anyone who understands the two key elements to a successful IPL team.
One: use your overseas quota of players wisely to give yourself good balance. They've done the opposite, loading their top order with batsmen Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch, who are all too similar. That leaves just one place to fill. Andrew Tye, so brilliant year after year for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash has more than done his bit with seven wickets in three matches at a brilliant economy rate of 7.14. But he lacks support with the ball.
Two: seven of your 11 players have to be Indian so they need to pull their weight. Only Skipper Suresh Raina, Ravi Jadeja and keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik (to a lesser extent) have done so. The others need to start contributing.
As far as Raina and the Lions Management are concerned, Dwayne Bravo can't recover from injury soon enough. But until he's fit, they should consider playing James Faulkner at the expense of Smith. At least he always seems to take wickets with his endless variations of pace.
If anyone can tell me why Kolkata are as big as [1.85] to win this match, I'd love to know. Yes, this is T20 cricket and any side who with Raina, Finch and McCullum in the side can set a monster total and chase anything on their day.
But that's just about the only reason you can think of as to why Kolkata aren't nearer [1.6]. They're separated in the table by a massive six points from the same number of games and Kolkata beat them pretty easily when the match was played on the Lions' home turf.
Kolkata are two from two at home, have the far better balanced side as mentioned already plus momentum. For my money, this is the best match odds bet of the tournament so far.
Kolkata Top Runscorer
It's a crying shame for the Knight Riders that Lynn is likely to miss the remainder of the tournament but it's hard to understand why Kolkata are so reluctant to re-unite the tried and tested opening partnership of Gambhir and Robin Uthappa. They did after all win two IPL titles with those two first up. The likes of Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib/de Grandhomme offer enough class, experience and firepower in the middle-order for it not to be an issue that those two won't get them off to a flyer.
I have a feeling that they might go with Uthappa as an opener again for this one or at worst he'll bat at three. It's not hard to see why Gambhir is favourite at 12/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook but Uthappa's average of 29 is exactly the same as that of his skipper. Crucially, Uthappa is 4/1 so considerably bigger than the left-hander.
If you fancy a real long shot, consider Narine at 35/1. It's not inconceivable that the Knight Riders' think tank decide to open with him again, particularly if de Grandhomme misses out. That will look pretty big indeed if the West Indian is first up again, especially if they're chasing a small total.
Gujarat Top Wicket Taker
Andrew Tye (11/4) has seven wickets from three matches and the next best is Praveen Kumar (4/1) with three from four appearances. Ravindra Jadeja (7/2) normally has one outstanding day with the ball per IPL tournament but it really is hard to look past Tye in this market.
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Jamie's IPL 2017