CSK,RCB showdown opens enticing IPL playoffs

Mumbai: The two most successful teams of the IPL league stage go head to head as defending champions Chennai Super Kings take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in what promises to be an engrossing first playoff match of the event here tomorrow.

The first of the two play-offs called qualifier 1, a new format introduced by IPL from this fourth season, offers the winners a direct berth into the grand final on May 28 at Chennai while the losers of the match here would get another chance to make amends on May 27.

The team that gets defeated tomorrow would play against the winners of the Eliminator between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, also to be held here on May 25, in the second qualifier on Friday in Chennai, with the victors of that tie advancing to the final on Saturday.

Royal Challengers` comprehensive eight-wicket victory yesterday in their concluding round robin clash at home against Chennai pushed them to the number one spot on the league table with 19 points.

Super Kings finished second with 18 on a better net run-rate following Mumbai Indians` stunning last-over victory against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens last night that put them in third spot behind Bangalore and Chennai, besides earning them a spot in this year`s Champions League along with the top two.

With the head-to-head score this season reading 1-1 going into tomorrow`s first qualifying game for the final between the two southern outfits, the contest is expected to be intense and no-holds-barred on neutral territory.

Chennai were comfortable winners by 21 runs when the two teams clashed on April 16, which was reversed yesterday by Bangalore with a massive drubbing.

The biggest boost for the Royal Challengers since that first meeting in Chennai has been the arrival of the marauding West Indian opener Chris Gayle who has struck the IPL like a typhoon and blown away the rival bowling attacks with his blistering stroke-play.

Yesterday too his unbeaten 75 took away any slim hopes that Super Kings might have entertained after they were restricted to a meagre 128 for 8 by the superb bowling of Zaheer Khan, S Aravind and skipper Daniel Vettori.

The left-handed whirlwind has stunned all bowling attacks with his audacious shots to garner a whopping 511 runs in only nine games at an incredible strike rate of nearly 190.