Royal Challengers Bangalore v Chennai Super Kings
Wednesday, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
We've reached that stage of the season where most matches are cup finals. Almost must-win affairs, if not quite mathematically so. I find it inconceivable that 14 points will be enough to reach the play-offs, and 18 is a minimum for a top-two finish. That leaves these two sides virtually no room for error.
RCB are on 10 points with four games left. So perhaps they can afford one defeat and still sneak in. CSK are on six points so, by my reckoning, must win all five of their remaining matches and then hope other results go their way. At least, so far as this match is concerned, the latter have momentum.
Kohli's slow strike-rate is killing RCB
Yet again, Virat Kohli's RCB are in the process of blowing a strong position and the skipper must take the lion's share of the blame. They've lost three matches on the spin. The first two were truly awful results - bowled out for 68 and 115. The most recent was borderline criminal, given the position they were in.
Batting first against Gujurat, at a ground where 180 seemed a minimum requirement and was trading at odds-on around the mid-point of their innings, they laboured to 170. Kohli top-scored with 58, but at a grim 109 strike-rate. A textbook example of a player protecting his wicket at his team's expense. There was no excuse, given how much firepower RCB had in the shed.
At least there was one positive, in the form of Rajat Patidar's 52 off 32. The smartest plan would be to drop Kohli, who has been a liability all season in an otherwise excellent, balanced side. But of course, that won't happen.
Gaikwad and Conway back to explosive best
CSK kept their very faint hopes alive with a big win over Sunrisers, hitting 202. Ruturaj Gaikwad is beginning to find last year's superb form, hitting 99, and Devon Conway made a big mark on only his second appearance with 85 not out. As ever, CSK have big runs in them but the bowling is sub-standard. None of their bowlers have an economy below 7.5.
That high-scoring affair, involving 391 runs, came at today's ground. It was the second first innings above 200 in eight so far at the MCA International Stadium, Pune, and the third above 190. This is historically a good ground for runs, but in the previous two matches here, the pitch was slow and less than 300 runs were scored.
Some of the 'Both Teams to Score' odds are tempting - particularly 5/6 about 160 and an enhanced 10/3 about 180. These two have produced many a high-scoring clash over the years and if the pitch allows, this could well be another. However I am wary, having called this pitch wrong a couple of games back, so let's just try a small bet on the latter.
Chennai to rack up the sixes again
Sixes are more reliable here. Five of the eight matches produced 18 or more, thus making Pune the most reliable for this bet of the four grounds being used. The Total Sixes line is 15.5, with 'Over' available at 8/11. Alternatively Over 7.5 for either side is 5/6.
I prefer CSK for the latter option. Despite playing one game fewer, they lead RCB 73-60 in maximums and average over eight per match. They have nothing to lose and their star batsmen are finding form.
There is no obvious toss bias at Pune so, if you have a strong view on the match winner, feel free to bet pre-match. I don't hold a strong view though - the betting is virtually even and that looks more or less correct.
Two bets advised for Man of the Match
In the Top Team Runscorer markets, the two #OddsBoosts are for Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis - to 13/5 and 3/1 respectively. Given how well he played last time, and therefore looks booked for the number three slot, 11/2 about Rajat Patidar for RCB looks fair value.
Finally, one player for each side in the Man of the Match market. Both Ravi Jadeja and Josh Hazlewood are very likely types. Both match-winners, yet neither has won this award so far this season. I'd say both are due and 14/1 represents excellent value in a 22-man race.
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