Scramble for top two spots begins
Saturday, May 14, Bangalore
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
The IPL's glut of games makes it tough to remember what happened yesterday or last week. In that context, not many will recall that the now invincible Royal Challengers Bangalore endured a three-match losing streak in the first fortnight of the tournament. It took a Jamaican opening batsman to spark Bangalore's turnaround, and since his arrival they have run up six wins without breaking a sweat. Chris Gayle has obliterated all attacks that have come before him, and threatens to win the tournament single-handedly. Can someone find a way to stop him, or strand him at the non-striker's end?
The Gayle show began when he took guard against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 22. On that day, Gayle took out his travel-weariness - and his anger at the WICB - on his former IPL franchise. It was the only time in this season when Kolkata's 'rebuild from scratch' auction strategy backfired on them. They have otherwise been quietly efficient, and remained at the top end of the points table through the course of the season.
The format of the tournament's play-offs incentivises teams that finish first and second in the league phase. Kolkata are currently fourth, and Gautam Gambhir will be eager to find a way into the top two. 'Operation Gayle' will be the first step on the agenda for Gambhir, who is set to lead India's ODI side to Gayle's part of the world after the IPL.
Form guide (most recent first)
Bangalore: WWWWW (third in points table)
Kolkata: WLWWW (fourth in points table)
Tillakaratne Dilshan's role in the IPL is over and Bangalore have a bunch of options to replace him at the top. Rilee Rossouw, Jonathan Vandiar and Luke Pomersbach are the contenders to replace him, and whoever comes in, is likely to open with Gayle. Daniel Vettori will also miss out, having flown back to New Zealand to get advice on his knee injury, which means Charl Langeveldt should keep his place.
Kolkata haven't played for a week, since beating Chennai Super Kings at home. They might not want to fiddle with the XI, though the temptation to push Eoin Morgan into the middle order must be high.
Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team Selector.
In the spotlight
Brett Lee has been one of Kolkata's unnoticed heroes. Barring one shoddy over against Kochi, when Brad Hodge went after him, he has been reliable with the ball. His four-over spell against Chennai yielded a paltry eight runs. Having recovered from a bout of viral fever in time for the match, can he exhibit the same miserliness against Gayle?
Saurabh Tiwary has had an interesting second season after grabbing the headlines last year, with Mumbai Indians. There he was the prime-mover of the middle-order, setting up Mumbai's innings along with Ambati Rayudu. Bangalore have used him partly as a back-up to the big guns, and partly as a finisher. The top order's good form has meant Tiwary hasn't had much to do, but his time is bound to come soon.
- Chris Gayle has hit the most sixes so far in IPL 2011 - 30 in six innings. Virender Sehwag is second, with 18 from eleven outings
- Kolkata have four bowlers who have conceded under seven runs per over. Yusuf Pathan has been the best of the lot, going at 5.93 in 32 overs this season
"Now I'm watching 'You don't mess with Chris Gayle'… O shocks, I meant 'You don't mess with the Zohan'. We kick Bad Minds. Lol."
Chris Gayle's delightful Twitter feed sends out a veiled warning to the Kolkata attack
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo