Kolkata Knight Riders v Punjab Kings
Friday 1 October, 15:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Kolkata have won three from four since re-start and are bang in the race for the play-offs. It's quite a turnaround.
The difference has been intent with the bat. They released the shackles up front, notably against Mumbai when they chased a tricky 156 with 29 balls re-maining.
It is harder to put a finger on why they are so improved with the ball. Last time out they picked Tim Southee for success over Delhi. Southee, who has poor data, summed up their up-sell with an excellent show.
Andre Russell remains a major doubt with a hamstring injury so Southee should hold on to his place. Shakib-al-Hasan is unfortunate to miss out again. Eoin Morgan is in desperate need of a quick hit.
Probable XI Gill, Iyer, Tripathi, Rana, Morgan, Karthik, Narine, Southee, Fergu-son, Chakrathaty, Krishna
Slow Punjab batting
Punjab are running out of games. They may need to win all of their final three to be in with a chance of the top four.
Defeat by Mumbai in their last outing looks like proving decisive, not least be-cause it was a game they should have won.
On a wicket in Abu Dhabi which KL Rahul described as being worth 180, they managed only 135. As it turned out another 20 runs could have done it as their bowling unit, which has been consistent, got them close.
It's impossible to have any sympathy, however, because of their pathetic implosion against Rajasthan. They are specialists at losing games they should win.
Probable XI Rahul, Mandeep, Gayle, Markram, Pooran, Hooda, Brar, Ellis, Bishnoi, Shami Arshdeep
The six first-innings scores in Dubai in the re-started tournament read ( 1-2 denote match won batting first or second, most recent first) read: 149-2/164-2/165-1/134-2/185-1/156-1.
It's a mixed bag. And it's a mixed bag in terms of team characteristics. Punjab are averaging 7.7 runs per over this term with only Sunrisers slower. Kolkata, since they switched tactics with the bat, are now scoring at 8.6 runs per over, adding almost 0.4 in the UAE.
The toss, then, is key. Punjab are taken to struggle to get to that 150 mark and if the innings runs with them batting first are pitched in the mid 150s it looks a sell. Transversely if KKR bat first they should be able to go over.
Take on Punjab when in charge
Punjab return to the scene of their spectacular implosion against Rajasthan. It's not the vibe they were looking for in a must-win game.
Unsurprisingly they are outsiders. Kolkata are as short as 1.695/7 in an early show suggesting Punjab should be a minimum of 2.305/4 closer to the off.
They are not a side to be trusted at much shorter than that so a case could be made for them trading as favourites at the break. But not if they bat first. Their batting is not quick enough and KKR's bowling is much improved so there could be only a marginal shift in their favour with 145 on the board. Kolkata are, of course, also the kings of the chase. They have won 13 from 17 chasing against Kings and also have five wins in the last six.
It should go without saying that any big a shift in favouritism for Punjab should be opposed. They don't win games with ease and if big prices do become available about KKR at, say the break, we will be taking them.
Could this be KL Rahul's time to top score for the first time in the second part? He averages 35 against Kolkata with a strike rate of 142. Those who know that Rahul's game is not the most explosive will be aware of the big uptick in strike rate. Betfair Sportsbook have priced him at a boosted 12/5.
With Russell probably out, we are keen on Dinesh Karthik for runs. He is batting a place higher at this should have been taken into account. Instead he's chalked up at 14s. If Russell does play, however, the 7/1 looks chunky with a clear edge on two-year win rate.
Rahul and Karthik are both part of our Cricket...Only Bettor 100-1 special to celebrate the 100th show of the podcast. Varun Chakravarthy completes the accumulator with a pick for top KKR bowler.
Best Bets plus 34 units on Cricket...Only Bettor