Delhi Capitals v Kolkata Knight Riders
Thursday, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

For what is a huge game for both teams, the betting is virtually tied. Both Delhi and Kolkata have just six points so far, with the former playing one less game. By my reckoning, the target for a play-off place is 18 points. Defeat for the latter will likely be terminal and Delhi have little room for error.

Delhi may prove better than current placing

In terms of balance, Delhi look superior on paper. David Warner is in incomparably better form than last year and, alongside Prithvi Shaw, forms an opening partnership that can boss teams. Rishabh Pant is obviously another huge asset in the top order, but their greater strength lies among the bowlers.

One has to think, as the tournament progresses and pitches get slower, this attack will be hard to get away. Kuldeep Yadav is better than ever and Axar Patel ensures at least two international class spin options. Mustafizur Rahman and Khaleel Ahmed are highly adept on such slower surfaces. Anrich Nortje, when picked, offers a world-class pace threat.

So why the struggle? Well, to be fair, Delhi’s last two defeats were nothing to be ashamed off. Hitting 207 chasing an impossible 223 versus the tournament favourites, Rajasthan. They lost 189/173 to the previous favourites, RCB. There is definitely scope for improvement during the second half of the season.

KKR can afford no more mistakes

If that 18 point estimate is correct, KKR would need to win all six of their remaining group matches. Coming off four straight losses, such a run feels like a pipe dream. The only caveat is that, when the IPL was postponed midway through last season due to Covid, KKR were in a similarly impossible position, yet ended up reaching the final.

Those runs illustrate the team’s basic nature. Incredibly talented but erratic. Given their batting depth, no team is arguably better equipped to register huge totals, but they don’t know their right order.

Last year, Eoin Morgan was still captain. Replacement Shreyas Iyer is contributing much more with the bat, but he hasn’t settled upon anything like a consistent batting order. Sam Billings opened last time, with their one-time specialist opener Venkatesh Iyer down at six. In theory they could pick a supremely balanced line-up, but it hasn’t materialised yet.

Always back late runs at the Wankhede

The venue is the Wankhede Stadium. We discussed this at length in the latest Cricket…Only Bettor with reference to the first innings runs trends and why, rather than predicting the total and betting pre-match, it makes much better sense to wait for the Strategic Time Out after nine overs before any ‘Overs’ bet.

In the last four matches here, those last 11 overs have gone for 124, 118, 144 and 119. That’s an average of around 11.5 per over. Normally at that stage, 10.0 per over is odds-against so big-priced runs bands are being smashed in every game.

Simply, the boundaries are short here and offer little protection against sloggers. 12 of the last 19 matches here yielded 15 or more. In fairness, that is reflected by a higher than usual Total Sixes line of 17.5.

Defenders ahead of late but no real toss bias

No toss bias is discernible of late. The last five matches went to the team batting first, but the previous four went to the chasing team. Over the past two years, defenders lead 10-9.

There’s less disincentive, therefore, regarding pre-toss bets. With a gun to my head, I’d pick Delhi but in truth, this even betting looks more or less right. Ignore that and focus on the side markets.

Openers Warner and Billings appeal

First, Top Team Runscorer. Today’s #OddsBoost players are David Warner (enhanced to 7/2 for Delhi) and Shreyas Iyer, (enhanced to 3/1 for KKR).

The former is, for a change, nicely priced. KKR have been very unreliable with bat and Delhi may very well end up chasing a low total. If so, that offers a big advantage to openers. Irrespective of that, an opener averaging 55 during the tournament should be shorter odds, perhaps a full point.

Given that he opened last time, 6/1 about Sam Billings appeals. True, he may very well be shunted down to the middle order again but, even in that scenario, these odds would be roughly correct.

Finally given how well he’s bowling – 13 wickets at 17.38 average, and the fact most pitches are by now used, Kuldeep Yadav appeals at 14/1 to be Man of the Match. So too Tim Southee, who has made an instant impact for KKR and starred towards the end of last season as the pitches slowed.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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