Saturday will see yet another double-header coming your way from India's, and indeed the world’s premier franchise T20 competition. The first match of the day will see the Royal Challengers Bangalore host the Gujarat Lions.
That game will be immediately followed by the Kolkata Knight Riders who will look to consolidate their place near the top of the standings when they take on the struggling Rising Pune Supergiants.
Royal Challengers 7/10 | Tie 35/1 | Gujarat Lions 11/10
You’d be forgiven for thinking that these two teams would be slugging it out near the top of the standings this season, instead, they find themselves propping up the rest of the field along with the Kings XI Punjab.
The Royal Challengers have endured an atrocious season by their usually high standards. They’ve leaned heavily on their batsmen in 2016, scoring 170+ in each of their first nine games. Virat Kohli and his charges were restricted to just 151 last time out by the Mumbai Indians. Daniel Vettori knows that if his batsmen don’t fire, his side has very little chance of claiming victory on Saturday afternoon.
This is largely down to their woefully poor bowling attack which has conceded more runs than any other side in the competition. Any team that can’t consistently defend scores of 170+ is not going to win a T20 tournament, let alone the most competitive franchise cricket tournament on the planet.
Where to from here for the beleaguered Bangalore franchise? Chris Gayle has had a torrid campaign and could be axed from the squad yet again. They’ll need big performances from the likes of Kohli and AB de Villiers as well as a disciplined showing from Shane Watson with the ball. If these three click, then the Royal Challengers have every chance of claiming a vital two log points, if not; it’ll be yet another season without any silverware for the giants from Southern India.
The Gujarat Lions suffered a bit of a mid-season wobble following their blistering start to the 2016 campaign. They recovered beautifully last time out against the Kolkata Knight Riders, defeating the men in purple by five wickets with two overs to spare.
The win would have done wonders for Brad Hodge and his side. They were in real danger of being usurped by three teams occupying third, fourth and fifth place on the log. As it stands, they could leapfrog the Sunrisers into first place if they can claim the win on Saturday afternoon.
Their top order is as dangerous as any in the competition and should have very little issue blowing away a Royal Challengers attack whose confidence has been absolutely shattered over the last few weeks.
Verdict: Gujarat Lions at 11/10
This is such a difficult game to call. Both teams possess deadly top orders capable of taking the game away from the opposition in the first 10 overs. That said, they Lions have a much better bowling attack. The Likes of Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Jadeja and Praveen Kumar should tip the balance in the Lions’ favour, get on at 11/10.
Kolkata Knight Riders 6/10 | Tie 35/1 | Pune Supergiants 27/20
The Knight Riders just lost a bit of momentum last time out as they went down by five wickets last time out against the second-placed Gujarat Lions. Prior to that defeat, the men from Kolkata had won two on the trot and were looking good value to finish the regular season at the summit of the table.
Their strength has definitely been their opening combination of Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir. The two have been absolutely immense at the top of the order and it comes as little surprise that when they fire, the Knight Riders tend to win. Their lower order power-hitters can also be devastating if given the opportunity to settle. The last thing you want at the back end of an innings is to bowling at the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Andre Russell.
On top of a solid opening partnership, the Knight Riders boast one of the best bowling attacks in the competition. In Morne Morkel and Andre Russell they possess the sort of raw pace that can unsettle the world’s best batsmen. If that approach doesn’t work, Gambhir can toss the ball to any one of three world-class spinners in the form of Shakib Al Hasan, Brad Hogg and Sunil Narine.
The Supergiants have struggled of late and look well and truly out of the race for a play-off position. Their mid-season form has seen Stephen Fleming’s men win just once in their last five attempts as battle to avoid the 2016 wooden spoon.
In fairness, they have lost the bulk of their top order through injury with Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis and Mitchell Marsh all being ruled out of the tournament in the last few weeks. They have managed to draft the likes of Usman Khawaja and George Bailey into the squad, however, the two have found it difficult to acclimatise to the immediate demands of the competition.
It hasn’t helped that their talismanic off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin has been well off colour following a rather disappointing World T20. He’s only managed to pick up four wickets in 11 matches at an average of 58 – simply not good enough for a player of his calibre.
Verdict: Kolkata Knight Riders at 6/10
The Knight Riders have been the better team in every facet of the game this season. Bet against them at your own peril.