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Gayle, Ashwin to spice up clash of the southern bigwigs

india Updated: May 24, 2011 01:17 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
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Two days ago, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore squared off in the garden city knowing that irrespective of the result they were both through to the playoffs. The two locks horns again at the Wankhede stadium on Tuesday in the first qualifier aware that even a loss won't mean the end of their IPL-IV title aspirations.

RCB beat defending champions CSK by eight wickets on Sunday to leapfrog them in the IPL points table on the final day and clinch top place, while CSK finished second.

In the new playoffs format the top two teams meet in the first qualifier, with the winner advancing to the final and the loser getting another crack at making it to the summit clash, through the second qualifier against the winners of the eliminator between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Chris Gayle was the hero on Sunday, much as he's been all season for RCB. However, CSK coach Stephen Fleming warned RCB that getting Gayle early could leave them in a spot of bother.

Unsettled pairing
The lack of a settled opening partner for Gayle since the departure of Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan to England could make matters worse for RCB if Gayle flops. But Vettori is not unduly worried.

"It didn't work today but I know how good a player AB de Villiers is. He could be an option in the next game as well. (Luke) Pomersbach is another option, we have a couple of other ones up our sleeves. We will see how the wicket is and decide who to go with," he said.

Chennai could take a couple of positives from Sunday - the bowling of off-spinner R Ashwin and skipper MS Dhoni's 40-ball 70.

The gamechanger, however, could be Ashwin. The Wankhede pitch has kept low and slow over the past few matches. So impeccable was Ashwin's line and length that even Gayle treaded cautiously when he was operating. On a turning track he could be unplayable, much as he has been when CSK have played at the turner in Chepauk - where they hold a perfect 7/7 record. It's worth noting that when Ashwin is unplayable, CSK are unbeatable.