Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad: Sunrisers' bowling puts the rest in the shade
Ed Hawkins previews the contest from Eden Gardens on Saturday and says the Sunrisers can lay down their title credentials...
"Unlike KKR Sunrisers do boast an enviable bowling attack and it is arguable that they should be shorter than the [6.0] available on the outright"
Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad
Saturday 14 Apil 15:30
TV: live on Sky Sports
KKR bowling woes cause alarm
Kolkata Knight Riders are our pick for the title. But we have lost faith in their challenge very early following defeat by Chennai Super Kings in their second game.
KKR had started brightly with a cosy win against Royal Challengers Bangalore and they looked set for a 2-0 record after posting a massive 202 against the Super Kings. That's when it all started to go wrong. Their bowlers were unable to get a grip on the game until the death.
Yet with 17 off the last over required - a genuine class act should never let it get so close - Vinay Kumar bowled like a drain and the game was up. Teams which fail to defend 200-plus scores don't often win franchise tournaments.
Kumar probably won't play here, which is a blessing. Instead highly-rated youngster Kamlesh Nagarkoti could come in for a debut. Although Sunil Narine and Russell were tight with the ball, the rest weren't and there's an issue with depth.
There is nothing wrong with their batting. Their top order is a strong as anybody while their lower-order may be the best. Russell's record-breaking 88 from 36 balls.
Surnisers primed for title tilt
Unlike KKR Sunrisers do boast an enviable bowling attack and it is arguable that they should be shorter than the [6.0] available on the outright. Bangalore are, somehow, still clinging to favourite status at [5.1].
Rashid Khan, Billy Stanlake, Shakib-al-Hasan, Bhuv Kumar, Sidd Kaul and Sandeep Sharma have all basis covered. Rashid, in particular, could get Sunrisers to the last four on his own if need be.
Sunrisers are 2-0 with an easy nine-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals and a nailbiter against Mumbai Indians, the champions. They won by one wicket in a chase of 148, although it should never have got so close. They collapsed from a position of strength.
Kumar missed out on that victory with a sore back so their strength in depth with the ball is not in doubt. Naturally, though, they can't match that with the bat. Shikhar Dhawan is mustard but Kane Williamson has a tendency to slow things down while Rashid is a spot too high at No 8.
Pitch favours chaser
There is a 62 per cent toss bias at Eden Gardens in favour of the side batting second. And KKR, as they showed against Bangalore, are solid as a rock when going after a total on their own ground. Around 165 is a par score. Last season against Sunrisers at the venue KKR posted 172 and that proved to be just enough. Whether Kolkata's bowling is good enough to defend that sort of score is in doubt. They might need 180.
Visitors no rick on match odds
Kolkata are [1.92] for the win with Sunrisers at [2.06]. As we consistently say, we prize bowlers over batters and all being fair we would side with Sunrisers at the odds.
However, it would be folly to take on Kolkata blind before the toss. Their batting has to be respected in the context of the toss bias. So we will keep our fingers crossed that Sunrisers get to choose and they chase.
As we said, KKR might need 180 and we don't reckon that a team including Rashid, whose four overs went for just 13 against Mumbai, are a risk.
Top-bat jolly Lynn needs a score
With 27 runs from two innings Kolkata could be a little nervous about Chris Lynn's form. His strike rate of 112 is also way below par. The 12/5 that Betfair Sportsbook about him top scoring for KKR offer doesn't seem like value at this stage. Robin Uthappa, who has looked in good nick, is 10/3. Dinesh Karthik, the skipper, is 10/1 and that looks too big. Russell is 11/2.
Tweak could get Hales a spot
If Sunrisers are concerned about their batting they could strengthen it by bringing in Alex Hales to bat at No 3. With Sandeep coming in and doing well to replace the injured Kumar, Stanlake's overseas spot looks vulnerable. Sunrisers don't want to be too reliant on Dhawan, who has gone off like a rocket. He is 5/2 for honours with Sportsbook. We like Deepak Hooda at 11/1.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back Sunrisers batting second at [2.0] (2pts)
Back Sunrisers to win IPL [6.0] (1pt)