Kolkata KR v Royal CB: Back Lynn to star for the Knight Riders
They finished bottom of the table in 2017 but with Virat Kohli leading a better-balanced side, Matt Harris expects the Royal Challengers to kick off a more productive campaign with victory over KKR...
"Bowling has always been RCB’s weaker suit but with Southee and Woakes likely to start, the attack, along with Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, looks far more potent for 2018."
Kolkata Knight Riders v Royal Challengers Bangalore
Sunday April 8, 15:30 BST
Kolkata Knight Riders
It's been widely stated that KKR go into IPL 11 with a strong starting XI but have a lack of cover if injuries strike. That's not an encouraging assessment given the records of Chris Lynn and Andre Russell and the omens weren't positive when Mitchell Starc pulled out ahead of the tournament.
For Sunday at least they should have everyone available so Lynn and Robin Uthappa could form one of the stronger opening partnerships in the tournament - unless Sunil Narine is promoted to pinch hitter as he was to surprisingly good effect twelve months ago.
While there has been a reliance on Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir in previous editions, the middle order looks stronger and ready to step up despite the departure of their former skipper. Look out for Nitish Rana who enjoyed a productive IPL 10 with Mumbai.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Every franchise has decisions to make regarding their overseas roster but for RCB in particular, there will be some tough calls as the tournament continues. AB De Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Quinton De Kock, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Corey Anderson and Colin De Grandhomme are all strong picks but if Bangalore are to go deeper into the tournament, they should perhaps look at rotating their overseas a little more than they have in the past.
At least Virat Kohli is fit to start the competition: The skipper and his side never really recovered from his absence at the beginning of the 2017 campaign and he will need to come close to his IPL 9 form where he took the Orange Cap with 973 runs.
Bowling has always been RCB's weaker suit but with Southee and Woakes likely to start, the attack, along with Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, looks far more potent for 2018.
Venue and Conditions
In seven games at Eden Gardens across IPL 10, the average first innings score was 164 with the Knight Riders winning on four occasions. Three matches went with the side batting first and four to the chasers so there's no real indicator there as to what to do at the toss.
While rain is forecast for Kolkata on Saturday and Monday, Sunday is expected to be clear and if that prediction is correct, I would still prefer to chase while the side taking first knock should be looking to go beyond last year's average total and target something approaching 175.
If the definition of insanity really is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result then I shouldn't go near RCB this year. They constantly let me down in 2017 and in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago made just 49 chasing Kolkata's modest 131.
Kohli's availability from the start should make a difference but while the bowling has been suspect, the introduction of Southee, Woakes and Sundar makes them a much better all-round unit. If McCullum is fit I expect QDK to miss out and that may not be the best option but I'll still take the Royal Challengers at [1.77] as opposed to KKR at [2.24].
Top Kolkata Batsman
The main threat to that tip comes in the shape of Chris Lynn and if the Aussie stays at the crease for around ten overs then the Knight Riders could be out of sight. Alternatives include Robin Uthappa at [4.1] and Shubman Gill at [4.3] while the exchange has also realised the potential of Sunil Narine who looks short at [5.3].
Lynn may also be skinny at [3.3] but he's the key wicket and could deliver the profit whether he ruins the match tip or not.
Top Bangalore Batsman
I'd normally avoid two top batsman tips but with RCB there is always value if Virat Kohli doesn't give the return. Kohli is clear at [3.4] but AB De Villiers, after issues with injury, looked somewhere close to his best towards the end of the South African international season and he's the pick at a generous [4.3].
Back Chris Lynn to top score for Kolkata Knight Riders at [3.3]