The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 table-toppers Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will aim to extend their winning run in the tournament when they take on Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. Both teams will be high on confidence after registering comprehensive wins in their previous encounters. While KKR beat Rajasthan Royals (RR) by seven wickets in Jaipur, KXIP defeated SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) by 15 runs. KKR's worry would be the form of their Australian opener Chris Lynn, who lasted just two balls against Rajasthan and hasn't looked in the best of touch in the previous matches as well. But on the other hand, the hosts have found a new star in Nitish Rana, who has been effective with both the ball and bat this season.
Apart from Rana, KKR has their spinners -- Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla -- to trouble the opposition.
In the Kings XI Punjab camp, the likes of captain Ravichandran Ashwin and 17-year old Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman would be licking their lips at the prospect of bowling to Chris Lynn.
Coming to Chris Gayle, he smoked 11 sixes en route his unbeaten 63-ball 104 to help his side post a challenging 193/3.
Hyderabad were never in the chase and lost comprehensively in the end. This was Gayle's second consecutive match-winning innings after his 33-ball 63 against the Chennai Super Kings.
Gayle's innings was typical of him but in the manner in which he saw off Bhuvneshwar Kumar's first spell and later unleashed a brutal assault on Rashid Khan's leg spin, underlined the reservoir of experience that came into play during the knock.
Besides Gayle, Punjab bat deep with the likes of big-hitting Aaron Finch, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and ageing Yuvraj Singh in their ranks. Their bowling lacks experience, especially in the pace department. Mohit Sharma leaked runs against Hyderabad and will have to get his act together against KKR.
Having played one match less than KKR, Punjab have so far just lost once in four outings and are placed third. The two teams have met 21 times before and KKR enjoy a 14-7 head to head record.
KKR: Dinesh Karthik (Captain and Wicketkeeper), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, R Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi and Tom Curran.
KXIP: R Ashwin (Captain), Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul (Wicketkeeper), Chris Gayle, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Zadran, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Ben Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Dar.
(With IANS Inputs)