After a strong opening to IPL 13, Matt Harris is backing Rajasthan to maintain their 100% record when they tackle KKR on Wednesday...
"that deep batting line up will need to score against Narine rather than contain him as most sides do."
Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders
Wednesday, September 30th, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Along with the Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan are the only side to carry a 100% record as we move through the second week of IPL 13. Admittedly, it's only been two games but there have been exceptionally positive signs, especially considering that they've done it with negligible contributions from their two star overseas picks - Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
Sanju Samson may finally be delivering consistency to go with his huge potential and is firmly in the race for the Orange Cap while the depth of batting has been crucial thus far. There should be concerns that the Royals' attack has conceded 423 runs in those opening two games but, with Samson, Steve Smith, Rahul Tewatia and Jofra Archer combining to pull off the highest run chase in IPL history, Rajasthan will feel they can hunt down any total.
KKR's Bowlers Hold the Key
Without Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa, I had concerns over the Knight Riders' batting line up this year but the side comfortably chased down the Sunrisers on Saturday to record their first win of the tournament. It was only a modest target and, while Shubman Gill and Eoin Morgan shone with the bat, Kolkata's bowlers were largely responsible for that opening victory.
With Sunil Narine proving expensive by his own high standards, Pat Cummins recovered from a difficult first match to return figures of 1-19 from his four overs. Captain Dinesh Karthik called on seven bowlers during Hyderabad's innings and that depth and variation in the attack will be crucial for KKR as IPL 13 develops.
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium hosts its sixth game of the tournament and it's been providing a fast surface with short boundaries and a feast of runs. In those previous five matches, the average first innings score has come in at 180 and there have been three totals in excess of 200.
We could see another high scoring 40 overs and, once again, we're expecting a hot, dry and humid evening.
Kolkata Slight Favourites
The result market is a tight one with the Knight Riders just ahead at 10/111.9 followed by Rajasthan at 11/102.08. Based on form it could have been even closer but it's that Royals' batting line up that might just give them the edge.
If there was one flaw in Captain Karthik's strategy last time out it came with his decision to open the bowling with Sunil Narine. The West Indian is best used in the middle overs where he can strangle opposition and this is where the pivotal battle lies. Rajasthan will obviously need to take advantage of the Powerplay and that deep batting line up will need to score against Narine rather than contain him as most sides do. With Jos Buttler yet to fire amidst an in form batting line up, I'm backing the Royals to deliver.
Back Smith to Shine
While Sanju Samson has top scored for Rajasthan Royals in each of their two opening games, Steve Smith has been quietly accumulating at the other end. Skipper Smith can adapt his approach but, in partnership with the big power hitters, that patient accumulation is a perfect foil and I suspect that the Australian is due a bigger contribution on Saturday.
Smith should be available at around the 3/14.0 mark in Rajasthan's top batsman market while Sanju Samson's displays are likely to see him start as a potential 11/43.75 favourite. Buttler and Tewatia could also be in contention but Smith is the pick.
Fast Start for Rajasthan
While Rajasthan gave us a nice profit at 9/52.8 to hit most maximums against CSK, their record of 35 sixes in two games will make them prohibitively short in this market on Wednesday. Instead, I'm looking for Buttler, Smith and possibly Samson to deliver in the Highest 6 Over Total option.
With the Royals as marginal outsiders to win the game, odds of 1/12.0 here would represent good value.
Matt Harris' IPL P/L
Back Steve Smith to top score for Rajasthan Royals at 3/14.0