The Indian Premier League play-offs are almost set to start, with the First Qualifier to be played on Tuesday, May 27.
Three teams have already booked their place in the play-offs, with Kings XI Punjab, Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders keeping their hopes alive for the IPL7 crown.
The top two spots are very valuable with an eye on the First Qualifier, however, so every one of the top teams still has something left to play for.
Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad and even Mumbai Indians are still vying for the final play-off ticket, a race that will be decided in the final days of the IPL's group stage.
|Date||Match||Venue||TV Info||Live Stream|
|May 24||Bangalore vs. Chennai||Bengaluru||ITV4||ITV Player|
|May 24||Kolkata vs. Hyderabad||Kolkata||ITV4||ITV Player|
|May 25||Punjab vs. Delhi||Mohali||ITV4||ITV Player|
|May 25||Mumbai vs. Rajasthan||Mumbai||ITV4||ITV Player|
|May 28||First Qualifier||Kolkata||ITV4||ITV Player|
|May 28||Eliminator||Mumbai||ITV4||ITV Player|
|May 30||Second Qualifier||Mumbai||ITV4||ITV Player|
|June 1||Final||Bengaluru||ITV4||ITV Player|
The Indian Premier League uses a complex play-off format which uses Qualifiers and Eliminators, designed to give the fans the best match-ups imaginable and to avoid a bad team taking advantage of one or two lucky bounces to eliminate one of the teams who finished near the top of the standings.
The teams that finish in first or second place will play each other in a First Qualifier, while the other two teams will play an eliminator match. The winner of the First Qualifier will progress directly to the IPL final, while the loser will play the winner of the Eliminator in the Second Qualifier.
As a result, the top two teams will have two chances to win a single match and qualify for the final, while the bottom two teams will need to win twice.
It sounds complicated, but it really isn't. The best teams are rewarded, and so are the fans. The Guy Next Door seems to like it:
Impressed with the #IPL's play-off format of Qualifiers and Eliminators. Makes so much sense. Football needs to learn from them— The Guy Next Door (@guy_in_london) May 22, 2014
As it stands, Punjab and Chennai would be eligible for the First Qualifier, but the Super Kings have lost three in a row and seem to be ice cold going into the play-offs.
Who will win IPL 7?
Kolkata, on the other hand, have obliterated the opposition in recent weeks and are making a late push for a finish in the top two and a chance to take on Kings XI on Tuesday.
A win over Sunrisers on Friday, coupled with a loss by Super Kings against Royal Challengers Bangalore, would see Chennai lose out on a top-two finish, despite having been near the top of the standings since the first week of competition.
Following Rajasthan's loss against Punjab on Friday, the final ticket for the Eliminator is still up in the air.
Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad both chase Royals by two points in the standings, and both are behind Royals on net run rate. Indians will get a chance to fight their way into the play-offs in a head-to-head against Rajasthan, while Sunrisers will take on Kolkata, as previously stated.
Royals have looked very average in recent matches, to the disdain of their fans, but thanks to their advantage in net run rate, they still have the inside track to the play-offs. An Eliminator against one of Kolkata or Chennai seems like it would be but a formality for the latter two, but in T20 cricket, anything can happen.
If RR fail to make it to the playoffs, they have themselves to blame for the mess! Not happy.. #ipl— Aditya Mittal ™© (@adiratan) May 23, 2014
This year's top three teams have really separated themselves from the pack, so even if Mumbai or Hyderabad do the impossible and qualify over Rajasthan, they would be a heavy underdog in the Eliminator.
The most interesting battle will most likely take place in the First Qualifier. Punjab looked close to unbeatable at the start of IPL7, and their great form has seen them comfortably hold the lead at the top of the standings, but a match against a red-hot Kolkata team could get very interesting.
Chennai, meanwhile, need to recover fast, but they will face a very weak final opponent before the play-offs in Royal Challengers Bangalore, and an emphatic win there could boost their confidence at just the right time.