Russell, Gayle in focus as Punjab take on KKR

Chennai: Two West Indian dashers, Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, had a brilliant first outing in this year’s IPL and will be up against each other when Kings XI Punjab take on Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, tomorrow.

Both the batsmen helped their team win their respective first game with Gayle smashing an unbeaten 79 and Russel, scoring a swashbuckling 49 runs to help KKR win from a precarious situation. Both the teams will once again depend on them to continue their winning momentum.

Kolkata Knight Riders enter into the game with a lot of confidence, especially after the way they won the first game against last year’s runners up Sunrisers Hyderabad, touted to have the best bowling line-up in the IPL. With 53 runs needed off the last three overs, the way Russell brought them to victory will surely provide the players lot of optimism when they take on the field. Also playing in front of their home crowd will help immensely.

Both the teams are loaded with formidable spinners. KKR has the seasoned trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine, while KXIP has Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The much-hyped mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy is also in their ranks and all these spinners will look to keep the opposition batsmen guessing and can restrict the scoring.

KKR’s batting might not look strong on paper but youngsters like Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill have become a vital cog in the team and are in prime form. Nitish Rana is back after a superb half-century and Shubman Gill too smashed two winning sixes and the youngsters will be raring to go.

One concern for KXIP is the form of its opener, KL Rahul. Rahul had a disastrous Test tour against Australia earlier this year and he hasn’t shown any glimpse of his form in the last IPL recently, he was dismissed for just four in the last game and the Punjab outfit will want him to get back to form.

Tamilnadu lads, Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik captains of the franchises will hope that their fast-bowlers step up to the occasion and be a bit more economical.

Aaditya Anand M