Rajasthan Royals kept their play-off hopes alive with victory over Kings XI on Tuesday but Matt Harris expects this game to go to form with Chennai's batting depth key to success...
"As skipper MS Dhoni admits that finding the right bowling unit ahead of the play offs is his main issue but things may have finally fallen into place in that regard."
Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings
Friday, 15:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Royals Battling Back
Bottom of the table at the start of the week, the Royals' victory over Kings XI Punjab on Tuesday leaves Ajinkya Rahane's men within two points of the final play off place but they need to keep winning and Friday's match is a tougher challenge. Jos Buttler's promotion in an emergency run chase has led to three consecutive half centuries and while the Royals have only won one of those three games, the side suddenly has better balance with their keeper opening the batting.
Rajasthan will need to decide whether to keep patience with D'Arcy Short at the top of the order but the concern, in general, is the bowling unit. Jaydev Unadkat has been an expensive disappointment and while Krishnappa Gowtham and Ish Sodhi combined well to tie KXIP down on Tuesday, Sodhi will rarely contribute consistently. The Kiwi leg spinner wasn't always trusted to bowl four full overs in Notts Outlaws' successful T20 Blast campaign of 2017.
Recent form is mixed with two wins and two defeats in four but overall it's been a productive IPL for the Super Kings who return to the tournament after a two year absence. As skipper MS Dhoni admits that finding the right bowling unit ahead of the play offs is his main issue but things may have finally fallen into place in that regard.
Mark Wood has returned home to give the selectors one less option but his England team mate David Willey stepped in to return tidy figures of 1/24 against RCB. On his IPL debut, the left arm seamer also claimed a catch, a run out and a number of those minor sponsors' trophies that lead to a marathon awards ceremony. He also has two rapid T20 hundreds to his name and will extend CSK's batting depth - a quality that has got them over the line in tight finishes this season.
The Royals successfully defended 158 against KXIP and that's been a typical first innings score at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur this year. Those totals, from five matches, show a tight range between 151 and 167 with an average of 158 so this clearly isn't one of the faster tracks at IPL 11.
Three of those games have gone with the side taking first knock but with totals that low, it could be a day to insert and chase on an evening when weather is not expected to intervene.
There are no real surprises in this market with Chennai Super Kings clear favourites for the win at [1.77] and Rajasthan Royals lagging behind at [2.22]. I've mentioned already in this preview that the key contest in this match is likely to put Rajasthan's struggling bowlers up against a long CSK batting line up that goes all the way down to David Willey at eight.
Jos Buttler's form could upset that tip and if he maintains it then the Royals could be out of sight but he's still lacking support amongst the batters and that key battle should be won by the Super Kings to deliver a modest match profit.
For some reason, D'Arcy Short keeps appearing at the top of Rajasthan's top run scorer markets but he's not interesting us based on form. The Aussie is too short - no pun suggested - at around [3.4] while Jos Buttler has now shortened from prices around [6.0] to [3.8] or possibly higher.
Buttler has delivered three straight profits here but we're going to take a punt on Sanju Samson who started the tournament strongly and was in early contention for the Orange Cap. Samson's overall performance at IPL 11 has mirrored that of his career as he tails off after initial promise but if Buttler goes early he's a good option to respond and deliver at around the [5.0] mark.
When these teams met in the reverse fixture on April 20, Shane Watson smashed a century against his old side and the Australian is one of three Chennai players in the top ten leading run scorers at this stage of the competition.
Watson is set to start as favourite to top score for CSK at around [3.4] but Ambati Rayudu has emerged as the Super Kings' most consistent threat and if you can get [3.6] on a man who has scored 423 IPL 11 runs in ten knocks, take it as my recommended bet of the day.
Matt Harris' IPL 2018 P/L