IPL Sunday 24 April

Written by Dale Vos for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Sunday's first fixture should, in all likelihood, be the game of the tournament. The two most powerful batting line-ups in the tournament will slug it out for dominance in what looks set to be a high-scoring and entertaining affair.

The second game of day sees the under-achieving Supergiants and the high-flying Knight Riders square off. While Kolkata have been swatting teams aside with their wonderful top order batting and superb bowling, Pune have struggled to live up to the expectations brought upon them.

The one game Kolkata lost was against the defending champions Mumbai, while Pune have lost against fellow newcomers Gujarat and bottom of the table side Punjab.

Both sides have a lot to play for with Kolkata looking to extend their lead at the top while Pune will be looking to give their fans something to cheer about.

Sunday 24 April

Gujarat 8/10 | Draw 35/1 | Bangalore 1/1
Although Brendon McCullum has not quite performed to the best of his abilities just yet, Aaron Finch and Suresh Raina have more than made up for it. Both batsmen have scored at huge strike rates and have helped Gujarat get off to a flying start in their first IPL season.

These two may be the stand out batsmen but Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Bravo add much-needed experience to a good middle order. Add in the talented Ravindra Jadeja to the mix and you've got a top six that could well take Bangalore’s bowling attack to the cleaners.

While their batting line-up are on great touch. Gujarat’s bowlers will need to perform above the level they have been at so far if they want to restrict Bangalore’s line-up. They have only taken 18 wickets in four games with their frontline bowlers - excluding Bravo -failing to show up.

Jadeja has been their best spinner with four wickets and Bravo their best seamer with six wickets. Bravo will be a huge asset in this game as he knows how to bowl to this batting line-up - remember how he bowled De Villiers in the T20 World Cup - and his experience will be invaluable.

It remains to be seen whether Dale Steyn will get another game (he is far from his best and has been for some time) or if they will revert back to James Faulkner who also adds an extra batting option.

It looks as though we will not be seeing Chris Gayle in the near future with his bad run of form finally catching up to him. KL Rahul has not looked fantastic at the top of the order but has shown signs that he can dominate a bowling attack.

However, I think Bangalore would do well to open the batting with Kohli and Watson. De Villiers has been in amazing form and is second only to Kohli on the top runscorer chart. To move the South African into the opening slot would be foolhardy.

There is not much to say about Bangalore's middle to lower order as they have not been severely tested so far, although, youngster Sarfaraz Khan looks as though he will be a big player for them in the future.

The bowling attack of Bangalore is a mix of medium pace and spin with the lack of a genuinely quick bowler, and their reluctance to play Adam Milne and Varun Aaron, perhaps hindering their wicket taking ability a bit (they have only taken 20 wickets in four games).

Shane Watson has bowled well, as has fellow Australian, Kane Richardson. Tabraiz Shamsi came in for the injured Samuel Badree and was immediately picked against Pune but was not very economical.

Verdict: Bangalore most match sixes at 9/10
Bangalore have hit 34 sixes in four games, outscoring their opponents in this department in three of those games. That’s an average of 8.5 sixes per match. Gujarat have hit a total of 12 sixes from their four games with Finch and Raina preferring to go along the ground. With De Villiers, Kohli and Watson all in good form and looking to hit just about every ball for six, I see huge value here. 

Pune 11/10 | Draw 35/1 | Kolkata 7/10
Pune’s top order is incredible and enough has been said about the wealth of talent they possess. However, while Faf Du Plessis has been plundering bowling attacks all over the place, the rest of the batsmen have been nowhere near as effective.

Rahane has managed only 96 runs in 3 innings while Pietersen, Smith, and Dhoni have only amassed 184 runs in 10 innings combined; Du Plessis has managed 172 runs in 4 innings alone. This faltering middle order has been largely responsible for their bad run of form - with good starts usually followed by mediocre middle-order performances.

The loss Kevin Pietersen in last night’s game against Bangalore will not help their cause either. The middle order will have to show up if they are to beat Kolkata, who have a very good bowling attack.

Pune’s bowlers have also been less than impressive this season. The standout performer has been, the relatively unknown, Murugan Ashwin who has taken 6 wickets so far. R Ashwin has been awful thus far, averaging 60 runs per wicket.

Mitch Marsh was unlucky to miss the last game as he adds good control to this bowling attack and is very economical. Ishant Sharma, after a good first game, has fallen away slightly and will be looking to improve.

Thisara Perera has been something of a revelation and his 3 wickets against a good Bangalore side will give him plenty confidence.

Pune’s bowlers will have to come to the party if they are to stop the train that is Kolkata’s top order. Expect Albie Morkel or Mitch Marsh to be added to the team due to the Pietersen injury. They will both add good international experience as well as pace to the bowling attack.

Kolkata have had a very good start to the competition with three wins in four games. Gambhir and Uthappa have both been in delicious form at the top of the order. In fact, at the time of writing, eight out of the top 10 run scorers in the tournament so far are opening batsmen.

Kolkata’s openers have managed three fifty-plus partnerships so far which has allowed the middle order to perform; as they always have a decent foundation laid for them. Manish Pandey has also looked in fine fettle, as has Andre Russell, who is always a danger. The top four in the batting order are also all striking at a rate above 120, so they are scoring lots of runs at a very good rate as well.

Kolkata’s bowling has been very impressive as well. They have a wide range of spinners to choose from which include Brad Hogg, Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Shakib Al Hasan.

 Seven of the top 10 bolwers in IPL this season have been fast bowlers with Morkel and Russell amongst them. Both bowl excellent short balls at a good pace and soften the batsmen up for the spinners to take advantage. Will they be able to do that against a powerful Pune batting line-up?

Verdict: Kolkata Highest Opening Partnership at 4/5
Both Gambhir and Uthappa play spin very well and if they can get through the early assault of fast bowling from Ishant Sharma they should be able to get a good foundation going for the middle order. Ajinkya Rahane has looked a bit shaky against fast bowling in the past and the pace of Russell and Morkel may well do for him early on. Kolkata’s openers should be able to outscore their counterparts here at good value.

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