IPL: Sunday 23 April Preview

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We look forward to yet another IPL double-header coming our way this Sunday!

Last year's table-toppers return to the venue that brought Tuesday's defeat at the hands of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, while a plighted Punjab outfit want to bounce back from Thursday's heavy defeat to the Mumbai Indians.

The Knight Riders are determined to avenge last season's defeat to Sunday's opposition at their home ground, while the Royal Challengers will again try to lift themselves into the top half of the table.

 GL v KXIP | Sunday, 23 April 2017 | Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium 12:30

To Win Match
Gujarat Lions 7/10 | Tie 35/1 | Kings XI Punjab 23/20

From the highs of last season to the depths of 2017, captain Suresh Raina and company are desperate to lift themselves from the foot - or thereabout - of the standings. The absence of the injured Dwayne Bravo hasn't helped, nor has the bid to replace him gone smoothly, with a slew of international players evidently inadequate in the star all-rounder's shadow.

Australian James Faulkner, in combination with the homegrown Ravindra Jadeja, for now, seems a solid solution. Faulkner wasn't selected for his country's Champions Trophy squad, so has a point to prove - or consolation to gather - in the IPL. Statistical evidence, meanwhile, suggests seamer Andrew Tye should bowl more in the Powerplay.

Characteristically laden with superstar batting talent from abroad, Gujarat will insist Indian trio Basil Thampi, Dhawal Kulkarni and Shadab Jakati put in a sound collective effort. If one of them is unable to oblige, then room in the attack might need to be made for spinner Shivil Kaushik, who has been rather expensive recently.

Punjab's brains trust must look deep into a telling statistic ahead of Sunday's showdown. Gujarat big-hitter Brendon McCullum has fallen to left-arm spin on 20 occasions - the most among all IPL batsmen. The visiting side's deployment of slow bowler Axar Patel, then, needs to be carefully considered - and could see him afforded the new ball.

Their bowling department, in general, needs swift correction. The Kings XI had a hefty total to defend against Mumbai, but faltered at each turn to render centurion Hashim Amla's marvelous feat vain. The selection of New Zealander Matt Henry, perhaps instead of Australian Marcus Stoinis, could remedy the shortfall.

Opening batsman Manan Vohra, too, is key. Partnering him with Amla at the top of the order - rather than the South African with the left-handed Shaun Marsh - makes greater sense. Regardless, the characteristic fight - mentally and physically - shown by Amla and Vohra needs to be replicated across the remainder of the XI.

Verdict: Kings XI Punjab 7/10
Visibly invested and eager to justify the faith shown in him as captain, one surmises Glenn Maxwell - and Patel - will be instrumental in Sunday's result. Raina or McCullum must contribute, heavily, if the opposite is to occur.  

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KKR vs RCB  Sunday, 23 April 2017 | Eden Gardens, Kolkata | 16:30

To Win Match
Knight Riders 1/1 | Tie 35/1 | Royal Challengers 8/10 

In contrast to Gujarat's Bravo-less woe, Kolkata have successfully negotiated the absence of the banned Andre Russell, so much so that Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan can't gain a semi-permanent berth in the XI. Sunday, though, seems a fitting opportunity to play the veteran all-rounder against an opposition order lined with like-minded cricket brains.

Australian seamer Nathan Coulter-Nile's 2017 IPL debut was outstanding. While his three key wickets ultimately snared the Man of the Match award in victory over the Delhi Daredevils, a miserly economy rate of 5.50 genuinely tolled. Time will tell whether or not he can repeat these meagre digits against the likes of West Indian Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli.

Batting-wise, Knight Riders have evidently made a conscious effort to be overtly attacking in the Powerplay, with their average run-rate in the first six overs 9.90 - the highest of all teams this season. Skipper Gautam Gambhir will want to again lead by example - and continue the momentum gained by striking a boundary, at least, every six deliveries.

Amid a growing norm in Bangalore's management of the mercurial AB de Villiers, as has been the case with Gayle in the past, his availability for Sunday's fixture probably won't be confirmed until 24 hours prior. His hurt back can't be threatened, particularly ahead of the Proteas' Champions Trophy campaign. If he doesn't play, the left-handed Travis Head will be an adequate understudy.

Last year's showdown between Sunday's opposition saw the visitors achieve victory on the back of big contributions from Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers, while fellow big-hitter Shane Watson watched the nine-wicket success from the sidelines. Maybe there will be room for all four of them - and Head - again.

The Knight Riders' weaknesses have been few and far between, but perhaps the use of seamer Stuart Binny could unhinge the plans of Gambhir's men. A fine balance between pace off and on the ball, Binny's leg-cutters - and other variations -should work well on an Eden Gardens pitch that is occasionally two-paced.

Verdict: Royal Challengers Bangalore 8/10
Still in pursuit of a maiden tournament title, with the two-time champions Knight Riders the latest to stand in their way, Bangalore will likely pull off a major coup in Kolkata, as they did last time.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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