The Indian Premier League finished with a flourish thanks to the Mumbai Indians' final-day win over the Rajasthan Royals. That victory ensured a playoff berth for Mumbai.
The win put the Indians in the same bracket as the Chennai Super Kings and set the playoff fixtures. Here are the updated fixtures ahead of the qualifying rounds:
|Qualifier 1||Kings XI Punjab||Kolkata Knight Riders||Tue May 27 20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BMT||Eden Gardens, Kolkata|
|Eliminator||Chennai Super Kings||Mumbai Indians||Wed May 28 20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BMT||Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai|
Obviously, the clash between Punjab and the Knight Riders is the marquee match. The Kings XI have been the pacesetters most of this season.
Possessing talent in every area of the game, Punjab will rightly be favorites in the playoff phase. Here are predictions for the two games:
Kings XI Punjab vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
The Kings XI are fully loaded with quality batsmen, led by prolific smasher Glenn Maxwell. He led league play in sixes with 35, per figures from IPLT20.com.
But Maxwell isn't the only Punjab batsman Kolkata should be concerned about. David Miller is a productive mid-level hitter.
Miller has amassed 399 runs this season, per IPLT20.com. With Maxwell as the heavy hitter, consistently credible support from Miller means Punjab can find runs from anywhere on its order.
But the glue that holds the Kings XI together is savvy captain George Bailey. The skipper is a steady influence as an accomplished all-rounder.
A crafty and efficient batsman, as well as a smart medium-paced bowler, Bailey rarely makes a mistake. That will be a key for Punjab at Eden Gardens.
The Knight Riders are a mercurial squad, capable of dominating any opponent when at their best. No players symbolize that temperamental brilliance more than Orange Cap leader Robin Uthappa and supporting batsman Yusuf Pathan.
Occasionally streaky as a batsman, when Pathan finds his groove, he secures runs in chunks. He certainly did just that during Kolkata's final game against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Pathan tallied 72 runs in a batting display described as "pyrotechnics" by India Times' writer Sarang Bhalerao.
It will be a fascinating clash between Uthappa's ability to switch on the magic against the sly bowling of Kings XI medium-pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji and devilish leg spinner Karanveer Singh.
Predicted winner: Punjab
The Kings XI have too much strength in depth for the Knight Riders, even in Kolkata.
Chennai Super Kings vs. Mumbai Indians
Even by the time they play the Eliminator, Mumbai are still likely to be buoyant after the way they backed into the playoffs. IPLT20.com reporter Harsh Kalan described how an epic batting effort pushed the Indians into fourth place:
What transpired over the next 4.4 overs was nothing short of surreal. The MI faithful were witness to arguably the most famous win in franchise history as Anderson (95*) and Ambati Rayudu (30) went after the RR attack with all their might, and then some! Scoring boundaries and maximums at a remarkable rate, the duo brought the Playoffs qualification equation down to 20 runs off nine balls after scoring 19, 18 and 13 runs off the 11th, 12th and 13th overs respectively. With the crowd on the edge of their seats, Anderson struck two fours off Pravin Tambe, to bring the equation down to 10 runs off three balls after the leggie’s over.
As good as Corey Anderson was, it still came down to the final ball, as Kalan notes:
But there was a twist in the tale. As a result of the tied scores at the end of 14.3 overs, both MI and RR sported identical net run-rates. Hence, as per fresh calculations, it was clear that MI were still in with a chance to qualify, provided they scored at least a four off the next delivery. Then thanks to Aditya Tare (6*), they did not get just a four, but in fact, a big six on the leg side to seal an emphatic win and their passage to the Playoffs.
Tare's six has sent the Indians to the playoffs where they could be dangerous. The Mumbai batting order is capable of producing some monster numbers.
Lendl Simmons owns the competition's highest individual score. Then there is Anderson, who has the talent to deliver match-winning performances but hasn't always produced this season, per ESPNCricinfo.com assistant editor George Binoy:
Corey Anderson, whom Mumbai picked in place of fast bowler Marchant de Lange, played the attack-shredding innings he had been bought to play but had failed to produce so far in the tournament. However, when Mumbai needed 9 off three deliveries to win in 14.3 overs and qualify for the playoffs, Anderson could manage only a single off Faulkner's first to move to 95 off 44 balls and take his place at the non-striker's end.
Of course, Chennai has its own star batsmen who don't always deliver in the form of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum. The pair can dominate at times, but those times haven't been frequent for the Super Kings this season.
It was Faf du Plessis who proved to be the star man in Chennai's final game. Topping a half century kept Chennai's hopes of second place alive, albeit briefly.
The Super Kings are a well-rounded group but one that always seems like it could deliver more than it promises. The momentum is with Mumbai, and if Simmons and Anderson hit a good streak of form, they can power the Indians through.
Predicted winner: Mumbai Indians
Mumbai generated serious momentum with their final-game heroics. By contrast, the Super Kings have been too inconsistent to completely trust in a playoff atmosphere.