Chennai Super Kings made a winning start as the IPL returned and Matt Harris expects MS Dhoni's men to overcome struggling RCB...
"The news relating to Kohli may have been coincidental to Bangalore’s heavy defeat to KKR on Monday but I would suggest that the team may have been unsettled."
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Chennai Super Kings
Friday September 24, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
A question of timing
Virat Kohli's decision to announce his intention to step down as RCB's Captain was a curious one in terms of its timing. As the competition was set to resume, the Royal Challengers were firmly in the playoff places with many wondering if this would finally be the year that they lifted their first IPL Trophy.
The news relating to Kohli may have been coincidental to Bangalore's heavy defeat to KKR on Monday but I would suggest that the team may have been unsettled. RCB remain in third place but batters and bowlers now need to step up as the chasing pack close in.
Royal Challengers Bangalore lost a number of fringe players during the break but the core overseas trio of AB De Villiers, Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson remains. The three will be instrumental for RCB as the groups progress.
Business as usual for CSK
Chennai Super Kings tend to rely on experienced domestic talent and will therefore be less affected by the unscheduled pause to IPL 14. The core of the starting XI - MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Ambati Rayudu were in place for the win over Mumbai Indians on Sunday.
Regular overseas picks Faf Du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo were also involved while Sam Curran is now out of quarantine and available for selection. All-rounder Curran could come in as a like-for-like switch with Moeen Ali who was out for a third ball duck and sent down three wicketless overs against Mumbai.
In 2020, CSK were said to be 'too old' to be effective but that experience has been vital at IPL 14 and the contributions from younger players - Ruturaj Gaikwad made a match winning 88 on Sunday - should see Chennai comfortably into the playoffs.
Switch to Sharjah
The Sharjah Cricket Stadium hosts for the first time in this year's Indian Premier League. Back in 2020, the opening four matches here saw first innings scores exceed 200 on each occasion as the surface earned a reputation for playground size boundaries and fast scoring.
Things calmed down from that point with the final four first innings scores coming in at 114, 149, 120 and 149 so it was something of a tournament of two halves. All four of those targets were chased down but wins were fairly evenly split overall with seven going to the chasing side and five to the team taking first knock.
Overall, the average first innings score in 2020 was relatively high at 177 and it could be a day to bat first and bat big.
Chennai made a fast start on Sunday while RCB were humiliated a day later so the match odds hold no great surprises. CSK start as favourites and can currently be claimed at 1.84/5 for the win while Royal Challengers are behind at 2.166/5.
Momentum is clearly with Chennai although it should be remembered that Gaikwad's 88 masked the fact that three of the top four failed to trouble the scorers last time out. RCB will recover but Kohli's abdication has been a shock and it may take them time to respond. Expect Bangalore to improve but Chennai should take the points.
If Sam Curran does come into the side, the selectors have other options. Faf Du Plessis was one of those three men to make a third-ball duck against Mumbai and injury appears to rule him out of Friday's clash.
Faf would have been my tip to top score for CSK but, in his absence, I'm looking to Suresh Raina to provide a calm and productive approach. Other likely options will include Gaikwad at 4.03/1 and Rayudu at 4.57/2 while Dhoni and Curran could provide the value at 6.05/1 or better but Raina is the tip at 4.57/2
As always, there are lots of options if you're looking for a third pick. Cornered RCB will come out firing and they should attract interest as 2.166/5 outsiders to hit the most sixes.
Alternatively, another South African to make a duck last time out was Bangalore's AB De Villiers. I'm expecting a response and AB looks tempting as RCB's top batsman at around 4.03/1.
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