|The Gujarat Lions and the Kolkata Knight Riders will go head to head on Thursday afternoon in IPL action.|
The 51st game of the IPL dishes up a tasty looking clash between the Gujarat Lions and the Kolkata Knight Riders. With both sides duking it out near the top of the table, victory in this clash could all but seal qualification to the play-offs.
Will the consistency of the Knight Riders see them home or can the explosive top and middle order of the Lions claim victory in front of their home fans? It’s all shaping up quite nicely, let’s see if we can find some value!
To Win Match
Gujarat Lions 17/20 | Tie 35/1 | Kolkata Knight Riders 19/20
Following a blistering start to the season which saw them win six out of their first seven games, the Gujarat Lions have wobbled a bit losing five of their next six. They’ll come into this game desperate for the win that will see them – barring a miraculous set of results – secure their place in the play-offs for the 2016 edition of the IPL.
They certainly have the firepower at the top of the order to do just that. With Aaron Finch, Darren Bravo and Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina making up a terrifying top order. That said, it’s great to have such big name players in your squad, but they still have to perform. They did so magnificently well in the first half of the season, with Aaron Finch, in particular, taking a liking to the flat wickets found throughout India. Smith and McCullum have been good in bursts while Raina has been consistent enough to warrant a place in the side.
They’ll have their job made considerably easier following news that Andre Russell is unavailable with the clash. Even with that news, however, they’ll still need to navigate the considerable talent of Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine, and Shakib Al Hasan if they’re going to claim two vital log points on Thursday evening.
They were a bit unlucky to lose last time out following AB de Villiers’ and Virat Kohli’s heroics with the bat. Brad Hodge will tell his charges to forget about that game and focus on dealing with a very well-rounded Knight Riders outfit.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Looking through all of the IPL squads on paper, the Kolkata Knight Riders have easily the most balanced and settled squad in the competition. Their top order, while not spectacular, are consistent and proven performers in T20 cricket. Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir have been immense this season, laying a platform from which Shakib, Russell, and Yusuf Pathan can launch from in the later overs.
While their batting has been sublime, their real strength lies in their bowling attack. Jacques Kallis can call on the likes of Shakib, Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine, Umesh Yadav and Piyush Chawla; all of whom have bags of experience at the highest level. They will be without Andre Russell, though. The big West Indian – who has bagged 15 wickets in 12 games – injured his left leg after going to ground in his follow-through.
Like their Thursday opposition, the Knight Riders also bore the full brunt of the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s top order and Chris Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers made very short work of the 183-run target set by the Kolkata franchise.
Looking ahead, I don’t see too many changes being made to the Kolkata Franchise. Obviously, the absence of Russell will necessitate a change. They’ll probably look to bring in either Chris Lynn or the Brad Hogg. I’d be tempted to go with the 45-year-old Hogg whose ability with the bat as well as the ball could prove invaluable as the Kolkata franchise looks to book its place in the play-offs for the third time in their history.
Verdict: Kolkata Knight Riders at 17/20
This game is way too close to call and I wouldn’t stake the rent money on a potential winner. That said, they Knight Riders edge it for me owing to how well-balanced their squad is. Back the men in purple to all but seal a place in the play-offs on Thursday evening.
Value Bet: Kolkata Knight Riders to make the higher first six over score at 11/10
Crazy bet, right? Especially with the wealth of attacking talent that the Gujarat Lions have at their disposal. What you need to remember, however, is that the likes of McCullum, Bravo and Finch haven’t really come right in their last few innings; and when one of them is dismissed cheaply at the start of the innings, the man at the other end often goes into his shell a bit. The Knight Riders have a solid opening partnership that has been together for years and I’ll be backing them to lay a solid six-over foundation for their power-hitters down the order.