Lucknow Super Giants v Kolkata Knight Riders
Saturday, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
It appears increasingly likely that the two new franchises will fill the top-two places in the points table, in their first season. Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants currently occupy those positions and also head the outright betting, at respective odds of 4.03/1 and 4.77/2.
LSG title bid gathering momentum
I tipped Lucknow at 7.06/1 on the penultimate episode of Cricket...Only Bettor and K.L. Rahul's men certainly have momentum. They've won three on the bounce, despite losing two tosses and batting first on each occasion. (Generally assumed to be a disadvantage, although thankfully the toss has been less critical in this year's IPL).
Odds of 4.84/1 still represent decent value. If they do indeed secure that top-two spot, they'll be around 2.77/4. Get on now and I'll update the position later, assuming they qualify.
KKR in last chance saloon
A fourth straight win would all but eliminate Kolkata. I can't see anything less than 16 points being enough to reach the play-offs and, to get to that target, they'll need to win their four remaining matches.
An unlikely task but don't completely write them off. They've already delivered in one must-win affair, against Rajasthan last time. Also, remember last year when they seemed to be in a hopeless position, yet ended up rallying late and reaching the final. KKR have long been a mercurial, streaky outfit, possessing numerous matchwinners.
The betting only marginally favours Lucknow, at 1.9210/11 compared to 2.0811/10 for Kolkata. Given what appears to be a bias to teams batting first - seven out of nine have won so far this term - that is probably fair. Here's the line-ups as forecasted by Cricinfo.
LUCKNOW: De Kock, Rahul, Hooda, Stoinis, Pandya, Badoni, Holder, Gowtham/Avesh Khan, Mohsin Khan, Chameera, Bishnoi
KOLKATA: Indrajith, Finch, Shreyas Iyer, Rana, Rinku Singh, Russell, Roy, Narine, Southee, Mavi, Umesh Yadav
LSG can bat deep and afford to be aggressive
Much can be explained from those line-ups. LSG's order is fairly settled, yet still has great flexibility. Promoting Hooda and Stoinis to the top four enables maximum aggression, to follow a world-class opening pair that must be the envy of all. Hooda's promotion is paying off.
There are quality alternatives in reserve, such as Evin Lewis or a steadier type in Manish Pandey. They bat deep - Gowtham can pinch-hit and both Mohsin and Chameera are no mugs with the bat. In Avesh Khan and Holder, they have two very effective death bowlers.
KKR top order remains unsettled
Whereas, while KKR also mix class and versatility, an unsettled line-up and order can only be guessed. Note the exclusion of Sam Billings and Venkatesh Iyer after a few failures. Aaron Finch and Baba Indrajith aren't faring any better. Pat Cummins only played four matches and, despite heroics with the bat, was dropped due to expensive bowling. Mohammad Nabi is an effective, elite all-rounder yet hasn't been selected once.
In short, KKR struggle to accommodate all their overseas players, not least because Andre Russell and Sunil Narine are deemed undroppable. Tim Southee's excellent form - ten wickets from five appearances - surely locks down another spot. Nevertheless to reiterate, they are too classy to dismiss.
So what are the trends at the MCA International Stadium, Pune? Big scores are very possible, with three of the nine matches here yielding at least 198 1st Innings Runs. Much, however, depends on which strip is used. Of the six scores below 175, four were successfully defended, including the two sub-160s.
The Total Sixes line is Over/Under 16.5. Overs won in five of the nine matches, compared to four for Unders. Given that, as elsewhere, scores seem to be coming down as pitches wear, I'd lean towards unders here but not strongly, given the batting depth and power.
LSG under-rated for sixes match bet
One bet that appeals here is 7/4 about LSG hitting more sixes. They trail KKR 68-73 but that is due in no small part to Andre Russell hitting 22. Assuming he bats late, the West Indian won't have it easy against these death bowlers. Plus, as mentioned above, Lucknow have a settled team which can afford to be aggressive from the outset.
Today's pair of #OddsBoost batsmen are K.L. Rahul and Aaron Finch, enhanced to 13/5 and 11/4 respectively to be Top Team Runscorer. The former makes considerably more appeal. Despite a slow start, Rahul has headed his team's list four times in ten matches, so consistent bets at these odds would have returned a solid profit. That was similarly the case in previous IPLs.
An alternative option is to take 9/2 for Top Match Batsman. I think this is slightly preferable, because besides Shreyas Iyer, the KKR top order doesn't convince.
Finally for Man of the Match, try a couple of speculative bets on KKR bowlers. Sunil Narine hasn't won this award yet this term, but he's bowled well and is notoriously deadly later in the season. Likewise Tim Southee is coming into his own during the second half of the season, just as he did last year. 18/1 is surely too big.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty