5 top performers of 2018 Indian Premier League

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The 2018 Indian Premier League has seen amazing performances put in by some of the very best players in the world, with an exhibition of power hitting and supreme bowling on show.

Like every year, the Indian talent has shown an incredible amount of depth, with some of the young locals fitting seamlessly into their new surroundings.

Kings XI Punjab are top of the table after playing six matches, with Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals occupying the play-off places.

Here we look at five of the standout performers from the first couple of weeks of the 2018 competition.

Chris Gayle

A Gayle storm has well and truly arrived at IPL 2018.

The West Indian has developed a reputation for himself as the biggest hitter in world cricket, and he has enhanced that in the three innings he has had for Kings XI Punjab this year.

Gayle struck the first hundred of the competition with his 104* against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, and has a tally of 229 runs in three innings, and having only been dismissed once, averages an astonishing 229.

At a strike rate of 170.89, Gayle will look to return from an injury having missed Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils, and Punjab will be desperate to get him back in the side.

The 38-year-old has struck a nice opening partnership with Lokesh Rahul, who himself has 236 runs, the second highest in the competition.

Gayle has also registered two half centuries, with 13 fours and 21 sixes in those matches.

He holds the record for the highest IPL score with his 175* for his former side Royal Challengers Bangalore against Pune Warriors in 2013.

Gayle also has the most sixes ever scored in the history of the competition, striking 265 maximums in 100 innings, with 17 of those coming in that historic innings against Pune, which is also a record.

If Punjab can keep their star man fit for the duration of the competition, they could well be crowned champions next month.

Chris Gayle Chris Gayle

Sanju Samson

The next big thing in Indian cricket has arrived in this years Indian Premier League.

Samson is currently the highest run scorer in the competition, having amounted 239 in six innings, with a high score of 92*.

Scoring his runs at a strike rate of 150.31, the 23-year-old is showing his amazing ability, also scoring a half century against Mumbai Indians.

This tournament could see the emergence of Samson to the mainstream cricket audience, and could also see him make his way into the Indian national team and add to the one Twenty20 cap he received against Zimbabwe in 2015.

He is also a fine wicketkeeper, but with England's Jos Buttler manning the stumps for the Rajasthan Royals, Samson won't get a chance to showcase that ability.

Rajasthan are sitting in fourth currently, winning three of their six matches, and Samson playing a crucial role in wins over Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians.

They haven't shown their full potential yet, but with Ben Stokes starting to find form with two 40's in consecutive matches, it could see them cement their place for the play-offs.

If they are to make the final stages of the tournament, Samson will have a major part to play and will have to maintain the form that sees him wear the orange cap after six games.

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Trent Boult

The fast bowler has had a fantastic tournament for Delhi Daredevils, and currently wears the purple cap for most wickets having picked up nine in six matches.

The prospect of Boult linking up with South African Kagiso Rabada was a frightening one, and I'm sure batsmen had a sigh of relief when that was stopped by an injury to Rabada.

With that injury, the pressure was heaped even more onto Boult's shoulders, and he has stood up to that magnificently.

The New Zealander has bowled 21.5 overs in his six matches, and has very respectable figures of 9-182 at an average of 20.22.

The 28-year-old has picked up at least one wicket in every game, and has best figures of 2-21 against Kings XI Punjab.

With Liam Plunkett coming into the side and taking three wickets on debut, and the likes of Dan Christian, Amit Mishra and Avesh Khan in support, the Daredevils have a fantastic bowling line-up.

I originally thought that their squad looked light on batting, and after six matches that looks to be accurate, having lost five of their six matches and sitting bottom of the table.

If they want to climb the table, Boult will have to get up his fantastic wicket to matches ratio, and they will have to rely on their batters hitting more runs for their talented bowling unit to defend.

Trent Boult Trent Boult

Sunil Narine

Narine had created a reputation for himself as a world class mystery spinner at the start of his career, but in recent years he has added explosive batting to his weaponry.

The West Indian still thrives with the ball in hand though, and has picked up eight wickets in six matches at an average of 19.12.

He picked up his best figures of 3-18 in a big win over Delhi Daredevils, and also picked up two against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The 29-year-old kicked off his tournament with a quick fire 50 while opening the batting against Royal Challengers Bangalore, and also struck 35 in 25 balls in a win over Rajasthan Royals before being run out.

He has been tried in different positions in the Kolkata batting line-up, coming in at four against Hyderabad, showing he is classed as a versatile player by the coaching staff.

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The Knight Riders have one of the most exciting batting orders in the tournament, with Dinesk Karthik, Chris Lynn, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell and Robin Uthappa all scoring over 150 runs in the six matches.

They sit third in the table having won four of their six matches, and having reached the semi-finals last year before losing out to Mumbai Indians.

It looks likely they will reach the same stage again in 2018, and Narine could be a key player to them going one round further this time round.

Sunil Narine Sunil Narine

Virat Kohli

If you were to ask the majority of the cricket fanbase before the 2018 IPL got underway, most would say that Virat Kohli would be one of the best players in the competition, and he has proven it once again.

Captaining the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kohli has scored 231 runs in five innings at an average of 57.75.

The Indian superstar registered a high score of 92* in a disappointing defeat to Mumbai Indians, and also scored 57 against Rajasthan Royals in the game before.

The 29-year-old's statistics speaks for itself, scoring 7326 runs in 220 Twenty20 innings at an average of 40.92, including 54 half centuries and four hundreds.

Kohli will be disappointed that his side have only picked up four points from a potential 10, and currently sit sixth, and will be looking to improve that in the coming matches.

He will be looking for AB de Villiers to step up to his blistering best in the next few matches, and the signs have been there, with the South African hitting 212 runs at an average of 53.

Overseas players Quinton de Kock and Corey Anderson could also prove to be vital if the Challengers want to work their way into the play-offs, and they have the dynamic Brendon McCollum waiting on the sidelines currently.

Chris Woakes has stepped up with the ball, along with Umesh Yadav, with both picking up eight wickets, with Yadav slightly more economical.

They had a disappointing 2017 campaign, finishing bottom of the table having collected only 7 points.

Kohli will be the main factor in deciding if they will be able to gain retribution and climb into the playoffs this season.

Virat Kohli Virat Kohli

Words: Johnny Morton

Images: PA

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