For Sunday's crunch match at Sharjah, Paul Krishnamurty strongly recommends sticking with the low-scoring plan that has paid off at this ground...
"Backing 'unders' has paid dividends all season here and it would be wrong to abandon that strategy."
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Punjab Kings
Sunday, 11:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Arguably the two most perennially disappointing franchises square up on Sunday morning, with plenty on the line. RCB's hopes of a first IPL title remain very much alive as Virat Kohli's men look all but certain to finish in either the third or fourth play-off slot. One win would guarantee it. A top-two is still possible, although would likely require three wins from their final three games.
Punjab still alive after KKR win
Against the odds, Punjab are also still alive and kicking. They will need to win both this plus their final group match against Chennai, and then hope other results go their way. A positive, nevertheless, considering they've looked all but out on several occasions.
Successfully chasing 166 against their principal play-off rivals KKR last time shows they're up for the fight. Openers K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal set it up, as they so often do, before Shahrukh Khan finished it off with a late slog.
Kings could utilise army of spinners
Much has been said throughout regarding Punjab's lack of balance, but I think they might be finally getting a line-up together. Dispensing with Chris Gayle leaves room to include a stronger middle order, including Shahruhk and Fabian Allen. Given they have an abundance of spinners, I'd be inclined to drop Nathan Ellis in favour of Adil Rashid.
Including another top-class spinner would particularly make sense given the venue. Runs have been extremely hard to come by at Sharjah. Yesterday's first innings total of 129 followed scores of 134, 127, 125 and 156. The sixes tally has ranged between seven and 13.
Four of the five matches here were won by the chasing teams. I'm not convinced that reflects a fundamental toss bias, rather than it being easier to control a low chase. Were 150 plus the target, I reckon it would be formidable.
Run totals still overestimated at slow Sharjah
Indeed, as explained before Thursday's match here, guesstimating par at Sharjah is proving a real headache. Even yesterday, 150 plus was available to lay pre-match at 1.558/15. 135 or more at 1.182/11. Judging by the Sportsbook quote of 17/10 about both teams scoring 160, we'll probably see the same.
The results prove this is way too high - the market is too wary of the six-hitting bonanzas seen here in other years, when the pitch was playing that much faster.
Backing 'unders' has paid dividends all season here and it would be wrong to abandon that strategy. However I much prefer 1st Innings Runs to Total Sixes as the vehicle, given the power in both batting line-ups. Try and get 150 or more matched at 1.75/7 and 140 or more at 1.331/3. If not pre-match, then in-play.
So far as the match result is concerned, nothing is recommended pre-match but I would say Punjab look slightly under-rated at around 2.26/5. For me, their army of spinners are better equipped to contain scoring here. Fabian Allen is another who is adept at taking pace off, while Mohammed Shami is one of the best strike bowlers in the tournament.
Hooda a tasty price from Punjab middle-order
As usual, the enhanced batsmen on the Sportsbook are the favourites for each side - Rahul is out to 9/4, Kohli to 13/5. Neither interests me, given an expected low scoring game. In such scenarios I'd prefer a finisher, who could win the market with a quickfire 30.
For Punjab, 11/1 about Deepak Hooda appeals. He bats up at four sometimes and can be devastating at the finish. Nothing is recommended on the RCB market, but 16/1 about Sachin Baby is eyecatching.
Finally, one further bet on Shami to be Top Punjab Wicket-Taker. I've backed him a few times this term without luck, but he's bowling really well and worth persisting with. I reckon taking 5/2 in each match would pay dividends over the long-term.
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