The Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are unbeaten in their IPL 7 campaign so far, would be eyeing a hat-trick of wins when they take on the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
With another win, the RCB will go to the top of the IPL points table, level with Kings XI Punjab. On the other hand, the Gautam Gambhir-led KKR unit will look to leave their last match's disappointment behind and rejuvenate their campaign with a win.
The star-studded Bangalore, who boast of some of the most feared T20 batsmen in their line-up, have won both their games so far. They started off with a handsome 8-wicket win against the Delhi Daredevils and followed it up with another stellar 7-wicket triumph over the defending champions Mumbai Indians.
The results have come despite the absence of the destructive Chris Gayle, who has been nursing a sore back. The Jamaican giant, however, is expected to be fit for Thursday's match.
In his absence, the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel and South African import AB de Villiers have made quite a statement with their efforts to show that the days of RCB being called a one-man show are over. A slight concern has been skipper Virat Kohli, who is yet to hit the groove.
Kolkata too have a good line-up at their disposal. Even though there aren't any big stars to boast of other than Gambhir and Jacques Kallis, the likes of Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa have made their presence felt.
However, more would be expected of KKR skipper Gambhir, who is yet to open his account in this year's IPL. The southpaw, who is going through a rough phase, would be crucial in deciding how far the team manages to progress. Besides Gambhir, the form of Kallis will also be key to their success. The allrounder was instrumental in Kolkata's win against the Mumbai Indians in the opening game of IPL 7. His 46-ball-72 and a 131-run second wicket partnership with Pandey laid the foundation for their 41-run win. But the burly South African was not able to repeat it in the second match against Delhi and was dismmissed for a duck.
Allrounder Yusuf Pathan will also have to repay the faith that the team has shown in him despite a prolonged struggle for form.
The RCB have a slight edge in the bowling department. Mitchell Starc, Albie Morkel and Varun Aaron quite literally stifled the Mumbai Indians in their previous match. And the trio would be quite a challenge for KKR batsmen to deal with.
The KKR bowling, on the other hand, was taken to the cleaners by Delhi in their previous game. The likes of Morne Morkel and Vinay Kumar seemed helpless as Delhi's batsmen hit them all over the park. But it would take a special effort for the KKR bowlers to contain the fierce RCB batting line-up.
(With inputs from PTI)