IPL 2018: Sunday 8 April Preview

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We take a look at the first IPL double-header of 2018 as the Kings XI take on the Delhi Daredevils before the Kolkata Knight Riders face up to the Royal Challengers Bangalore. 

A tournament that has produced more than 600 matches over 11 years screams through an opening weekend over characteristically jam-packed action, as three perennial underachievers and one two-time title holder thrash it out.

The Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore, indeed, have never been crowned champions, while the Kolkata Knight Riders are chasing a repeat of their 2012 and 2014 title-winning campaigns.

KXI vs DD | Sunday, 8 April | Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali | 12:30

To Win Match
Kings XI Punjab 21/20
Tie 35/1 
Delhi Daredevils 82/100

They have met on 18 occasions, with an almost even spread of 10 wins to the Daredevils and 10 to the Kings XI. Will the hosts be able to widen the gap or can the visitors spring a relative surprise?

Kings XI Punjab
The Punjab outfit will be mindful of their dominance over the Daredevils this time last year, when they routed them for a mere 68 all out and then successfully pursued the modest target with more than a dozen overs to spare. An air of consistency remains, though, and that needs to be ironed out.

While their venue choice has a bit of an identity crisis, in that they have Mohali and Indore as home grounds, their core of Indian batsmen is solid in its collective personality - and includes the talented Lokesh Rahul and Yuvraj Singh. The hard-hitting Manoj Tiwary, too, is a good secondary option.

The ambition and innovation of new captain Ravichandran Ashwin will be of major interest, as he seeks to gel alongside former skipper Virender Sehwag. Their selection of Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, meanwhile, is intriguing - and the 17-year-old could face a baptism of fire.

They, of course, are not allowed to name all their international stars in the same XI, so their management of Australian Aaron Finch, South African David Miller and West Indian Chris Gayle needs to be thoughtful and tactical. They've also got Aussie seamer Andrew Tye - and his trademark 'knuckle' deliveries.

Delhi Daredevils
Delhi are renowned for overhauling their squad each season, but this season have somewhat of a settled look and feel - and increased options across their batting and bowling departments. Importantly, they've got an very experienced captain in Gautam Gambhir, who has a point to prove after leaving the Kolkata Knight Riders.

They've been dealt a big blow after South African pace ace Kagiso Rabada was sidelined by injury, but have other good choices in all-rounder Chris Morris and New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult. Both will be determined to extract as much pace and bounce from the Mohali pitch before returning to the low and slow Feroz Shah Kotla.

Morris, natural, will enjoy a patriotic duel with fellow Proteas star Miller - and this battle within the war should provide plenty of entertainment. The left-handed batsman could really tuck in if the right-arm seamer, as he has been known to do, consistently errs to the leg-side with some shoddy lines.

Delhi will likely unleash a slew of spin on the Kings XI, with leg-spinner Amit Mishra the spearhead and Nepal teenager Sandeep Lamichhane the sidekick. Herein, too, lies the opposition's opportunity to capitalise, particularly if Mishra's lengths are ineffective and Lamichhane struggles under immense pressure.

Verdict: Delhi Daredevils 82/100
While the Kings XI Punjab have the stronger head-to-head record and home ground advantage, the Daredevils - with Gambhir and coach Ricky Ponting at the fore - appear better equipped to take this one.

KKR vs RCB | Sunday, 8 April | Eden Gardens, Kolkata | 16:30

To Win Match
Kolkata Knight Riders 21/20
Tie 35/1 
Royal Challengers Bangalore 82/100 

The Knight Riders beat the Royal Challengers on both occasions last season, leaving the former keen to complete a hat-trick and the latter out to break the streak.

Kolkata Knight Riders
As they did with former India captain Sourav Ganguly many years ago, Kolkata have made a massive decision in getting rid of Gambhir - and will have to quickly justify the decision. The stalwart left-hander wasn't explosive, but brought a certain solidity to the top- through middle-order - and will be missed by those comfortable to admit it.

New skipper Dinesh Karthik will face a hefty challenge in establishing his leadership, but is the man tasked with the job regardless. He must not, however, let his primary role with the bat - and perhaps even behind the stumps - be negatively affected by the additional responsibility of the captaincy.

Their first-choice XI is close to obvious, but their bench strength is arguably lacking. They've been quite public about how their gameplan will centre around a couple of stars like Aussie big-hitter Chris Lynn and West Indian Sunil Narine. They might even deploy Narine, whose most important role will be with the ball, as a top-order pinch-hitter.

Eden Gardens will attract a big crowd, which - among all the grounds - will be the biggest force to reckon with. The Kolkata crowd really know how to get behind their team, which will afford the hosts added value and impetus in this key opening encounter. Again, hopefully they will be prepared to get behind a Gambhir-less unit.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Always promising plenty, but ultimately never delivering, maybe this year, on the back of a decade of under-achievement, will be Bangalore' time to shine. Perhaps this season, they can cast aside the glitz and glamour associated with the franchise and actually commit to some positive on-field results.

Their recent troubles have stemmed from an inability to follow up solid performances with the bat with complementary showings with the ball. The likes of Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers would gather 200-plus totals, only for the bowlers to be crashed to all corners amid severely disappointing and defeated defences.

They've seen the evidence and results - and have duly bolstered their ranks with four Indian spinners and five homegrown seamers, whose preparations will have centred around righting the wrongs of last season's bowling contingent. England's Moeen Ali and Black Caps Corey Anderson and Colin de Grandhomme, meanwhile, balance the XI as solid all-rounders.

Gayle's no longer there, but New Zealander Brendon McCullum and South African Quinton de Kock are - as is de Villiers. Their individual and collective pursuits against Narine and company will be important. The West Indian spinner is both prolific and miserly in economy rate. The Bangalore batsmen need to upset both elements.

Verdict: Kolkata Knight Riders 21/20
While Gambhir has a point to prove at his new franchise, his old team have one of their own to impress upon those who question the decision to get rid of him - and they should be able to do just that against Bangalore.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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