The final regular league matches in the Indian Premier League take place on Sunday. There are just two matches left before the playoffs.
Of those two games, the Kings XI Punjab's clash with bottom-placed Delhi Daredevils has little bearing on the ultimate standings. The teams are firmly placed at the summit and foot of the table, respectively.
But the second fixture has huge implications on the playoffs. Here's a look at the remaining fixtures, the updated standings and a recap of recent action.
|Latest IPL Standings|
|Kings XI Punjab||13||10||3||0||20|
|Kolkata Knight Riders||14||9||5||0||18|
|Chennai Super Kings||14||9||5||0||18|
|Royal Challengers Bangalore||14||5||9||0||10|
The big game is the encounter between the Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals. That match will determine who earns the fourth and final playoff spot.
Here are the two fixtures to look forward to on the season's final day:
|Final IPL Fixtures 2014|
|Date||Home Team||Away Team||Time||Venue|
|Sun May 25||Kings XI Punjab||Delhi Daredevils||4:00 p.m. IST 10:30 a.m. GMT 11:30 a.m. BST||Punjab Cricket Association Stadium Mohali|
|Sun May 25||Mumbai Indians||Rajasthan Royals||8:00 p.m. IST 14:30 p.m. GMT 15:30 p.m. BMT||Wankhede Stadium Mumbai|
Following Kolkata's favorable win over the Sunrisers, they pipped Chennai to second place. That has earned them a spot in the first qualifier against Punjab.
As for Chennai, their opponent will be determined in Sunday's late game between Mumbai and Rajasthan. Here's how the playoff fixtures look:
|Fixtures for Playoff Stage|
|Match||Home Team||Away Team||Date||Time|
|Qualifier 1||Kings XI Punjab||Kolkata Knight Riders||Tue May 27||20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BMT|
|Eliminator||Chennai||Rajasthan or Mumbai||Wed May 28||20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BMT|
Recap of recent action
Matches 53 and 54 had serious implications on the final standings for both Chennai and Kolkata. In the early match, the Super Kings swept aside the Royal Challengers, claiming victory by eight wickets.
The electric start provided by Super Kings openers du Plessis and Dwayne Smith cut the target down to size very early on. Super Kings rocketed to 53 in the Powerplay, with both batsmen taking 18 off a Mitchell Starc over as the captain Virat Kohli shuffled his bowlers to restrict the openers. Smith fell to a soft dismissal in the fifth over, but with a strong platform in place, Super Kings could afford to build steadily and look for singles instead.
Meanwhile, IPLT20.com reporter Harsh Kalan reserved special praise for MS Dhoni, for a "match-winning performance."
Fans of the Super Kings will have been pleased to witness such a commanding batting display. Chennai have not always delivered at the wicket during this campaign, despite obvious talent.
This performance can be classed as ideal preparation for the playoffs.
But as good as they were, Chennai were somewhat upstaged by the Knight Riders. Kalan correctly pinpointed mercurial Kolkata batsman Yusuf Pathan as the catalyst:
Yusuf Pathan (72 off 22 balls) stole all the headlines even as the Kolkata Knight Riders made it to the top-two of the Pepsi IPL 2014 points table by upstaging CSK’s net run-rate. Needing to scale the 161-run target set by Sunrisers Hyderabad, the Knight Riders got home in just 14.2 overs with five wickets in hand. In the process, Yusuf also recorded the fastest fifty in IPL history in front of a capacity crowd at Eden Gardens.
Pathan's heroics left his captain, Gautam Gambhir, in awe, per ESPNCricinfo.com:
"I have never seen this kind of innings in my career and I don't think I am going to see many like this in future as well. This is unbelievable hitting, I think I could have only dreamt of it, but actually I have seen this in reality, so it still hasn't sunk in."
Pathan's effort inspired a commanding win. Of course, Kolkata will need another big day from him to keep pace with Punjab and prolific smasher Glenn Maxwell.
Punjab and Kolkata have booked their playoff places, but all eyes will now be on whether Rajasthan or Mumbai can join them. In a preview of the game, ESPNCricinfo.com writer Rachna Shetty identifies the Royals' potential undoing:
Royals, on the other hand, have gone the opposite way. Their main areas of concern are death bowling - they gave away 56 runs against Mumbai in the last five overs and 46 in the last three against Kings XI - and batting. The indifferent form of their retained batsmen - Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson - has weakened them in the last two games, and their creative ideas (Rahul Tewatia and Ankit Sharma sent ahead of Brad Hodge and James Faulkner on Friday) with the batting line-up have not worked.
But Rajasthan's primary bowler, Ankit Sharma, will face his own tough challenge. He boasts a very commendable average of 10.75 in the competition. He'll pit that proficiency against Mumbai smasher Lendl Simmons, owner of the current highest score in this season's league play.
A playoff spot likely hinges on the winner of that personal duel.
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