IPL: Sunday 7 May Preview

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Yet another cracking IPL double-header's coming your way this Sunday. 

Out of the running for a berth in the play-offs, Bangalore will have the opportunity to shock the two-time champions Knight Riders - and hamper their pursuit of a third title.

Sunday's other home side - the Kings XI - are still in with a shout for a play-off berth, while the Lions will continue a daunting battle to stay off the foot of the table, which could also go to the Delhi Daredevils or Bangalore.

RCB v KKR | Sunday, 7 May | M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore | 12:30

To Win Match
Royal Challengers 23/20 | Tie 35/1 | Knight Riders 72/100

The M Chinnaswamy Stadium has relatively small dimensions and, again, will be entirely suitable for opener Chris Gayle's six-hitting savagery. Bangalore can no longer afford to sideline the lanky left-hander, intermittently, so he should be selected ahead of Australian Travis Head.

Bangalore were steamrolled for a record-low 49 all out when the teams met at Eden Gardens last month. This return fixture, then, is an ideal opportunity for revenge - or the possibility of another drubbing. To avoid the latter, the hosts simply have to display more collective gumption with the bat, particularly captain Virat Kohli and the overseas stars.

Kolkata, characteristically, will do well to take pace off the ball as soon as possible. If not the talismanic Sunil Narine, then left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav should open the bowling alongside a seamer like the homegrown Umesh Yadav. Australian Nathan Coulter-Nile, meanwhile, has a big billing to live up to - after former skipper Ricky Ponting publicly tipped him for a call-up to the Test team.

The Knight Riders will demand victory to remain in contention for top spot in the eight-team standings at the end of the round-robin stage. This will afford them automatic graduation to the final, rather than an awkward passage through the Qualifier and Eliminator fixtures in the week leading up to 21 May's finale in Hyderabad.

Dramatic improvement is required after Wednesday's defeat to the Rising Pune Supergiant at Eden Gardens, where their middle order was exposed - and Narine's penchant for successful pinch-hitting failed. While Aussie Chris Lynn's return from injury is drawing closer, Sunday will be too soon, so Narine will need to remain as an opening batsman.

Cosmopolitan seam trio Coulter-Nile, Colin de Grandhomme and Chris Woakes were very successful against Bangalore previously, but at a different venue, in contrasting conditions, one of them will need to make way for an additional slow bowler. Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan is no longer an option, but perhaps all-rounder Yusuf Pathan could turn his arm over - and an additional batsman be chosen.

Verdict: Royal Challengers Bangalore 23/20
In a case of too little, too late, the Royal Challengers will likely upset their visitors, who are almost untouchable at Eden Gardens, but rather fallible away from home.

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KXIP v GL | Sunday, 7 May 2017 | Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali | 16:30

To Win Match
Kings XI 72/100 | Tie 35/1 | Lions 23/20

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel will be vital against a power-packed batting order, laden with star trio Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith. Finch and Smith are not prolific against spin bowling, while the left-handed Raina has been known to struggle against fellow southpaws.

The Kings XI proved comfortable victors against Sunday's opposition earlier in the tournament, when seamer Sandeep Sharma was on point. He has formed a solid alliance alongside right-armer Mohit Sharma with the new ball. A seamer from both ends again, at the start of the innings, seems the obvious choice against Gujarat.

The Punjab outfit were outplayed in the 2016 version of this fixture, but now boast Proteas star Hashim Amla, who is enjoying a superb stretch of form - and has effectively made Punjab and Indore his homes away from home. He followed up a remarkable century against Mumbai with a brisk 65 against Gujarat recently - and is primed for more against the old enemy.

From last year's table-toppers to this season's potential wooden spooners, the Lions need to secure some sort of redemption - and quickly. Slipping further down the pecking order than Delhi now, Raina and company must slow the slide on Sunday, before an even more taxing week gets underway in Kanpur and beyond.

Their arguably misguided choice to leave Englishman Jason Roy out of the starting XI for the bulk of their campaign has seen him return to the United Kingdom - and their batting resources, therefore, are somewhat light. Even with Finch, Raina and Smith digging deep, someone else needs to step up against Punjab - all eyes on all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja or wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, especially after McCullum was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament on Friday.

Gujarat were unremarkable against Delhi earlier this week, allowing pace aces Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada to dictate proceedings, after which near centurion Risbah Pant and opener Sanju Sansom completed the trouncing. That weak approach can't be tolerated against stronger opposition, especially in Mohali.

Verdict: Kings XI Punjab 72/100
Punjab don't want to leave their possible progress beyond the group stage of the competition to mathematical chance - and victory over a depleted Lions line-up will help.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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