Ed Hawkins previews Wednesday's clash from Jaipur and says the Royals have the edge if they get their XI right
"Rajasthan don’t lose in Jaipur very often. They have won their last eight"
Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders
Wednesday 18 April, 15:30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Knight Riders back on their feet
The Knight Riders got a morale-boosting win against Delhi Daredevils last time out. And boy they needed it. Back-to-back defeats had caused a crisis of confidence in their abilities.
The first of those losses was pretty harrowing. They failed to defend 202 against Chennai Super Kings, a loss which suggested their bowling unit was not strong enough to challenge. They were then outclassed by Sunrisers Hyderabad, further exposing the gulf between them and the best.
It is unusual for a fancied side to be put in their place so firmly so early and they could have been forgiven for having a struggle against Delhi.
They were indebted to the extraordinary hitting of Andre Russell, however. Russell is a one-man show at the moment who could sell out arenas. His 153 runs, second on the overall list, have come a at a strike rate of 239. He has hit 19 sixes. Phenomenal.
Royals need Sodhi
If there is one team in this tournament that is making us scratch our heads it is the Royals. They have a 2-1 record and last time out blitzed Bangalore Royal Challengers after teetering on the edge at 50-odd for two.
This despite, seemingly, a refusal to pick their best players. There have been no spots available for Jofra Archer or Ish Sodhi. Now, we can understand that Archer may be overlooked but it truly is astonishing that Sodhi, a class performer, did not get a game at the Chinnaswamy where spin has been crucial.
Without Sodhi, Rajasthan do not have a spinner who will worry the opposition. But if he is picked here it will probably mean that D'Arcy Short, their Australian opener, will have to make way. He is averaging seven at a strike rate of 87. That's awful.
Sanju Samson is leading the charge with the bat and is the top runscorer in the tournament. It was his assault which downed Bangalore. They need him to fire because, unlike other franchises, they seem short on fully-fledged India internationals.
Rajasthan don't lose in Jaipur very often. They have won their last eight. That stat is slightly misleading, though, because before their win over Delhi this season they hadn't played at the venue since 2013. We can't get too hung up about average scores, then. In the last five 160 has been busted only once. So it might not pay off to expect a run fest in the first-innings runs market.
Rajasthan are rated as the outsiders here at [2.22]. If we could guarantee they would chase here and now and Sodhi would play we'd be all over that price. The likelihood is, of course, that is if they chase they will come in to around even money in a choice affair.
The trend for the chaser to dominate should continue at a ground where the toss has always been vital. Of the last 24 matches 16 have been won by the team batting second. This makes Kolkata at [1.8] an awful pre-toss wager.
Short might get one last hurrah in a bid to find form before he is axed. But even if he does Betfair Sportsbook's 11/4 that he top scores for the Royals isn't going to appeal. Ajinkya Rahane is 12/5 favourite. Samson, after his exploits against Bangalore is 16/5. Ben Stokes could prove popular at 5/1.
Lynn could be ready to go
Chris Lynn has had a quiet start to the IPL but there are signs he is beginning to find his feet. He has a 31 and 49 in his last two outings. It appears that he is being more circumspect than in the Big Bash where he can thrash away with abandon. Against spinners on tougher tracks he has been more reserved. But now could be his time if the Royals fail to pick Sodhi. It could give him licence to attack. He is 5/2 for to-bat honours. But we like the 5/6 that Befair Sportsbook offer about him hitting more than 2.5 fours.
A word on the man of the match market. Should Russell be 12/1 with Betfair Sportsbook? Granted he is yet to pick up an award this term but it is surely only a matter of time. Under-performing players like Rahane, Short and Stokes are all shorter in the betting. That can't be right. Sunil Narine looks a fair jolly at 8/1, though.
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