With less than a week to go before the start of the 2021 IPL play-offs, the league phase of the tournament has reached crunch time with some top teams set to miss out on the final four.
MUMBAI FACING EARLY EXIT
Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals are the two teams to have sealed passage to the IPL play-offs, but defending champions Mumbai Indians are staring at elimination after losing their last match. Rohit Sharma’s team’s title defence has stumbled dramatically since the IPL has shifted to the UAE, with four losses in five matches now leaving Mumbai facing exit from the league.
Currently at seventh position, Mumbai now have to beat Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad and then hope that Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings lose one of their two remaining matches. If either KKR or PBKS – or both – win each of their remaining fixtures, then it is curtains for Mumbai whose poor net run rate (NRR) has not helped matters.
RCB MAKE IT TO THE PLAYOFFS
For the first time in their history, Royal Challengers Bangalore have managed to qualify for the IPL playoffs twice in a row. Their resurgence has been on the back of runs from Glenn Maxwell, Virat Kohli and some superb bowling from Yuzvendra Chahal and the Purple Cap holder, Harshal Patel. Three wins in a row, and Virat Kohli’s team is now firmly in the final four.
On Sunday, Australian allrounder Maxwell collected another fifty – his third in a row – to help RCB post 164/7 against the lacklustre Kings, who fell six runs short. Maxwell hit four sixes and three fours during his unbeaten 57, while Kohli (25), Devdutt Padikkal (40) and AB de Villiers (23) also contributed. Moises Henriques’ miserly spell of 3/12 from four overs and three wickets to Mohammed Shami (in the last over of RCB’s innings gave PBKS some lift, but once again their chase gave away after another good start from openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.
RCB could still finish in the top two and earn a place in the Qualifier, should they win their remaining three games. If not, then it is likelier that they make it to the Eliminator. RCB have a four-point lead over KKR, and six over MI and RR who each have two game left. Of the three teams vying for fourth spot on the IPL points table, fourth-placed KKR have a better NRR than RCB.
KKR KEEP HOPES INTACT … FOR NOW
Eoin Morgan’s KKR will hope to clinch that fourth spot after beating Hyderabad by six wickets in Dubai on Sunday. Once again, SRH failed to put up enough runs with Kane Williamson (26), Abdul Samad (25) and Priyam Garg (21) all getting starts. Kolkata played three spinners, and they bowled miserly to concede just 58 runs in 12 overs to keep SRH to 115/8 in 20 overs.
Chasing 116, KKR were anchored by Shubman Gill’s 51-ball 57 before Nitish Rana (25) and Dinesh Karthik (18*) guided them home with two balls to spare.
Barring CSK and DC, Kolkata are the only team with a positive NNR, which leaves them well placed to clinch a spot in the Eliminator. To do so, they need to beat SRH and RR in their remaining matches. Should KKR win these two matches and RCB somehow lose all three of theirs, then Morgan’s team would jump to third spot. Should KKR lose to either Hyderabad or Rajasthan, then they can still be eliminated.
RR BREATH LIFE INTO PLAYOFF HOPES
The match of the past week was between CSK and RR in Abu Dhabi, where Rajasthan stopped a run of three losses in a row in stunning manner. Set a target of 190 after the in-form CSK opener Ruturaj Gaikwad scored his first century in the IPL, Rajasthan won by seven wickets with 15 deliveries to spare.
Gaikwad’s superbly-paced 101* from 60 balls featured nine fours and five sixes, and he reached three figures from the last ball of the innings by hitting oyals Mustafizur Rahman over deep midwicket for maximum. Gaikwad, 24, moved from 50 to 100 in just 17 deliveries and added 55 in quick time with Ravindra Jadeja who hit 32 off 15 as CSK looted 89 runs in their last six overs.
But Rajasthan upended predictions in some style, with teenaged opener Yashasvi Jaiswal clubbing 50 from 21 balls during an opening stand of 77 with Evin Lewis (27 off 12). Then came the comeback innings of the year, with Shivam Dube slamming 64* from 42 balls to put behind him the disappointment of a poor first half of IPL 2021 in India.
Rajasthan’s next match against MI on Tuesday is virtually a knockout now. Whoever wins remains in contention for the playoffs, but RR will need to win their last game too and hope that PBKS keep losing.