Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals: KKR title bid retains plenty of mileage

Kolkata Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik has been a run machine in KKR's middle-order
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Whoever wins this match will have one foot in the play-offs but the losers will retain hopes going into their final game. Paul Krishnamurty weighs up today's crunch encounter from Eden Gardens...

"There's a good case to be made for backing either Kolkata or Rajasthan to win the tournament...whoever loses this could still control their own fate when their final match arrives. KKR particularly appeal as their run-rate is by far the best among the teams on 12 and a couple of extra factors could now help their cause."

Back Kolkata Knight Riders to win IPL 4u @ [11.5]

Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals

Tuesday, 15:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

With two games remaining for everyone, virtually every game at this late stage of the IPL is a cup final and this one absolutely fits the bill. In light of Punjab's crumbling bid, the race for the play-offs is perfectly poised. Five teams separated by two points, chasing two spots. Whoever wins this will be in pole position.

Historically, 16 points has usually been the target. These two are on 12 so would need to win both matches. However because Punjab (the only other side on 12) would now need two upset victories away from home to get there, 14 is likely, meaning today's losers will be very much still alive.

With that in mind, there's a good case to be made for backing either Kolkata or Rajasthan to win the tournament, at [11.5] and [16.0] respectively. Punjab now have the worst run rate with Mumbai and Chennai away to come. That means whoever loses this could still control their own fate when their final match arrives.

Kolkata Knight Riders

KKR particularly appeal in the outright market. After Saturday's thumping win over Punjab, their run-rate is by far the best among the teams on 12 and a couple of extra factors could now help their cause. Their last group match is away to Sunrisers, who have already qualified and may rest players and, if reaching the play-offs, the Eliminator and 2nd Qualifier will be played here at their home ground.

Irrespective of that, Kolkata always appeal at the business end. This is a team of matchwinners with an elite spin attack led by Sunil Narine, all of whom are expected to get more help from pitches during the latter stages. That didn't happen at Indore last time but, no matter, Narine proved he's a genuine all-rounder nowadays with 75 off 36.

Rajasthan Royals

Yet again, Rajasthan have defied the pundits. They started joint favourites to finish bottom and were matched up to [140.0] earlier in the season. Inspired by the phenomenal Jos Buttler, they are now right in the hunt, with a home fixture against RCB to finish.

They may still be under-rated. Buttler is on fire and in Orange Cap contention. Jofra Archer - whose magnificent 4-16 set up their latest victory - is seventh in the race for the Purple Cap, despite playing at least four fewer matches than the other leaders. Sanju Samson is batting well and catching brilliantly. Why, with a two point lead and home advantage in their final match, they are bigger outright odds than RCB is hard to explain.

Classy bowlers to restrict runs

Run lines are bound to be set very high today, especially if Kolkata bat first. Their 245 last time was the fourth highest in IPL history and Eden Gardens has been a batting paradise this season. 200 has been breached twice in six first innings, only one of which was below 176. Only two of last year's seven scores were under 170.

On this occasion, it might pay to be contrarian. There are plenty of dangerous bowlers on both sides and we've seen twice in recent days how extreme bets can come off in this First Innings Market. Punjab were available to lay at [1.11] to score 145 or more, prior to yesterday's 88. KKR were [10.0] to score 210 or more before Saturday's 245. Let's try a couple of speculative punts here laying the 160 and 140 plus bands.

Back Kolkata for the tournament rather than this match

Kolkata are predictably hot favourites at [1.72] but such short odds rarely appeal pre-toss in T20 cricket. Rajasthan have been under-estimated far too many times and could well be again at [2.36] but other markets are preferred - notably the outright, for which KKR are recommended at [11.5] as a back-to-lay. The plan is to lay back for profit at around [4.0] if they reach the play-offs and progress.

In-form Karthik is value to top-score

Chris Lynn is favourite to top-score for the hosts at 23/10 but that looks too short in a competitive market. Dinesh Karthik hit another 50 last time and the skipper is now their leading scorer by 46 runs despite batting at five. It isn't easy to win this market from there but 7/1 is value.

Buttler bidding for six on the spin

Jos Buttler has top-scored for Rajasthan five times in a row, with scores of 95, 94, 86, 67 and 51. Statistically, that makes an obvious case for number six at 11/5. If you think he's due a failure, Ajinkya Rahane is a solid alternative at 3/1.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

IPL 2018 Profit/Loss:

+18.5 units

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