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Rajasthan Royals vs. Kolkata Knight Riders IPL punting guide

Match 54 – 8:00pm local time on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai

Rajasthan Royals – $2.10 at www.Bet365.com
Kolkata Knight Riders – $1.77 at WilliamHill.com

Rajasthan Royals are suffering a heavy dose of deja vu as they scramble for a spot in the 2015 Indian Premier League playoffs.

Having sat in the top two for the majority of the league rounds, the Royals – paying $2.10 best odds at online bookmaker Bet365 – now find themselves outside the final four with only one match to play.

The same thing happened in IPL 2014 when, after racking up 10 points in their first seven games of the season, the 2008 champions managed just one win from their last five to slide into a fifth-place finish.

The fall has been even harder this time around. Rajasthan had a perfect record after five games, but their Super Over defeat to Kings XI Punjab ushered in a barren streak of eight fixtures punctuated by only a single victory.

With the exception of the free-scoring Ajinkya Rahane, individual performances have declined drastically across the board. Steven Smith’s golden form for Australia has not quite translated to the Twenty20 IPL arena, while the likes of Shane Watson, Karun Nair and Sanju Samson simply haven’t produced enough big innings.

A lack of standout wicket-takers has hurt, too, as not one bowler in the Royals squad has managed to reach double figures for the series. Tim Southee and James Faulkner have been especially disappointing, with both averaging well over 40 runs per wicket.

All those woes were compounded by the gods at the back end of April, when consecutive fixtures against Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore were washed out with no result.

Now, after their recent loss to first-placed Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan will need to rediscover some semblance of that early season spark if they wish to feature in the knockout rounds.

Despite this nightmare run, team mentor Rahul Dravid insisted at a media function during the week that the Royals’ form was nowhere near as bad as their lack of results might suggest.

“We started well by winning five games on the trot. Then two of our games got rained out and we lost two games [against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings],” said Dravid.

“We have not played badly barring the one game against RCB when we made 130. The others were lost narrowly and or via the Super Over.”

Meanwhile, a victory for Kolkata Knight Riders – $1.77 IPL match odds over at William Hill – would sew up a playoff spot and give them a real shot at backing up their 2014 Indian Premier League triumph.

That title defence suffered a hiccough on Thursday when they fell five runs short against the resurgent Mumbai Indians, who were inspired by some heavy hitting from Hardik Pandya in the middle order.

The silver lining was an impressive all-round display from Shakib Al Hasan, who returned to the side after starring for Bangladesh in their recent ODI series win over Pakistan.

Morne Morkel was back in business, too, after a seven-match break. KKR rotated between Pat Cummins and veteran spinners Brad Hogg and Johan Botha in that time, but the tall South Africa seamer looks primed to lead the line heading into the finals.

Another plus for the title holders is the form of Yusuf Pathan, whose 52 against Mumbai was his fourth consecutive score of 25 runs or more.

Gautum Gambhir was less than impressed with his bowling attack on Thursday night, and he stressed that KKR could not afford another loose performance in the field this weekend.

“I always felt that letting them score 170 was not a great effort from our bowlers,” Gambhir told the Indian press.

“Hardik [Pandya] played a brilliant innings, but our bowling and fielding were not up to the mark.

“Letting them score 170 was the game-changer, especially after the first 15 overs they had.

“We needed to be more clever in the death overs. You can’t let anyone score 70 in five overs.”

Possible team selections

Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith, Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, James Faulkner, Deepak Hooda, Chris Morris, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Pravin Tambe

Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (C), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav, Shakib Al Hasan, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine

Match predictions

Result – Kolkata Knight Riders ($1.77 at William Hill)
Most match sixes – Rajasthan Royals ($2.20 at Sportsbet.com.au)
Highest opening partnership – Rajasthan Royals ($1.90 at Bet365)

With Morkel, Shakib and Narine all back in action, KKR now have something like their most dangerous lineup on the park. That should hold them in good stead against Rajasthan’s rather unspectacular bowling unit. Don’t overlook the Royals’ top order, though, which should compete well in the major IPL match batting markets.

Best value bets for top team batsman

Rajasthan Royals – Steve Smith ($4.50 at Sportsbet)

It’s been a patchy season for Smith, especially compared to his exploits for Australia over the last 18 months or so. But the young New South Welshman has shown some good signs in recent outings, including a solid 68 against Sunrisers Hyderabad last week. He likes pressure situations, so he’s a good bet if he gets time at the crease.

Kolkata Knight Riders – Yusuf Pathan ($8.00 at Bet365.com)

His place in the side was in real doubt a few weeks ago, but consecutive scores of 30*, 42, 29 and 52 make Yusuf one of the IPL’s most consistent performers leading up to the knockout rounds. He should line up at number four again this weekend, which is why some online sports books have him priced as low as $5.50.

IPL betting odds for top team bowler

Rajasthan Royals – Chris Morris ($4.00 at www.Sportsbet.com)

The South African seamer has probably been the best of an average bunch this season. He starred against the Super Kings last weekend with 3 for 19, so he’s clearly the form option in the Royals bowling attack.

Kolkata Knight Riders – Shakib Al Hasan ($5.00 at Bet365)

The Bangladeshi all-rounder was more prominent with the bat during the recent Test series against Pakistan, but he is a proven wicket-taker in T20 cricket. He was the pick of the KKR bowlers in the loss to Mumbai, taking 2 for 22 in his first match back. Good form + good odds = an excellent IPL value bet.

More Indian Premier League matches this week

Saturday, May 16
Kings XI Punjab ($2.86 at Sportsbet) vs Chennai Super Kings ($1.50 at WilliamHill.com)

Sunday, May 17
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Daredevils
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Mumbai Indians

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Dominic is an editor and writer at AustralianGambling.com.au and lives for all things sport. He completed a cadetship in journalism for Fairfax many moons ago and went on to cover a wide range of sporting codes, both in Australia and around the globe. He's right at home at AG and is always on the look out for the next great bet.

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