Dharamshala, May 16 : Chris Gayle's explosive batting would once again make the decisive difference when his in-form team Royal Challengers Bangalore takes on an equally upbeat Kings XI Punjab in an Indian Premier League match here tomorrow.
Assured of a play-offs berth, Bangalore have not seen defeat for seven matches while Punjab, who are still fighting to make the knock-out stage, are unbeaten for three games now.
Bangalore have gone from strength to strength ever since Gayle's arrival. The all-rounder, who was thrown out of the West Indies national team due to fitness issues, has been in marauding form leaving the opposition bowlers quite literally scurrying for cover.
The worrying thing for Punjab would be that one of Gayle's two destructive hundreds this IPL season has come against them and Adam Gilchrist would be desperately hoping for the law of averages to catch up with the big-hitter in tomorrow's game.
Bangalore went on to smash 205 in that match and Punjab, bogged down by the huge challenge of chasing the target, managed just 120 for nine.
Punjab have an outside chance of making the playoffs if they keep winning but to pull it off against the dominant Bangalore, it would require a very special effort.
Punjab certainly have the batting to do the job with Gilchrist, Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Karthik and David Hussey making up a solid line-up.
Just a couple of big innings from this batting order would be enough to set up a competitive total or chase down a intimidating target.
As far as bowling is concerned, Punjab have struggled badly and though pacer Praveen Kumar and spin spearhead Piyush Chawla came good in the previous match against Delhi Daredevils, stopping the hurricane called Gayle would be a tougher task.
For Bangalore, Gayle's success has brought phenomenal results, but the team also has to be wary of relying too heavily on the West Indian.
A big-hitter he is but Gayle can also be inconsistent and Bangalore needs the rest of the line-up which includes Luke Pomersbach, Virat Kohli, and A B de Villiers - to support the dashing left-hander with good contributions down the order.
The fact that RCB lost six wickets while chasing just 102 against Kolkata Knight Riders the other day after Gayle got out for 38 should cause some concern.
In bowling, the assured presence of the experienced Zaheer Khan has worked well for the team. But the star pacer has been left jaded by months of cricket and the rest of the attack - comprising Charl Langeveldt, Sreenath Aravind and Abhimanyu Mithun - has to ensure that his efforts are well complimented.
Given the form of both the teams, it seems to be an even contest but the Gayle factor slightly tilts the balance in Bangalore's favour.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli(capt), Mayank Agarwal, Sreenath Aravind, Arun Karthik, BN Bharath, Raju Bhatkal, AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Pradeep, Muralidharen Gautam, Chris Gayle, Mohammad Kaif, Abrar Kazi, Zaheer Khan, Charl Langeveldt, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ryan Ninan, Asad Pathan, Luke Pomersbach, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rilee Rossouw, Jamaluddin Syed Mohammad, Saurabh Tiwary, Johan van der Wath, Jonathan Vandiar.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt), Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Love Ablish, Mandeep Singh, Nitin Saini, Paras Dogra, Paul Valthaty, Shalabh Srivastava, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh, Vikramjeet Malik, Amit Yadav, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, Nathan Rimmongton, Ryan Harris, Ryan McLaren, David Miller. PTI