After a thrilling group stage, only four teams remain in the 2014 IPL and we now stand on the cusp of what promises to be a gripping play-off phase.
Kings XI Punjab, the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians will contest the play-offs after finishing in the top four places, and teams must now shift their mindsets to a win-at-all-costs mentality.
The first game will be between the top two sides—Punjab and Kolkata—with the winner guaranteeing their place in the final. Then, in the eliminator, the loser goes home as Chennai and Mumbai lock horns.
The second finalist will be determined when the loser of the qualifier meets the winner of the eliminator, in what promises to be an extremely tense affair.
Here’s all the information you need ahead of the play-offs, with your fixtures, live stream details and TV information covered:
|IPL 2014: Playoff Schedule|
|1.||Kings XI Punjab vs. Kolkata Knight Riders||27 May 2014||3:30 p.m. (BST)|
|2.||Chennai Super Kings vs. Mumbai Indians||28 May 2014||3:30 p.m. (BST)|
|3.||Loser of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2||30 May 2014||3:30 p.m. (BST)|
|4.||Final (Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 3)||1 June 2014||3:30 p.m. (BST)|
TV Info: All games will be shown live on ITV4
Live Stream Info: Watch via ITV Player Online and the ITV Player App
Often in these kinds of formats, it’s the team that has the momentum that comes out on top. At the moment, you’d have to say that team is the Mumbai Indians after their dramatic qualification for the play-offs.
For much of the group stage, the defending champions struggled for form and looked to be heading toward an extraordinarily weak defence of their title. But since the tour moved to India, the Mumbai outfit have seemingly turned a corner.
Their win over the Rajasthan Royals to secure their play-off spot was one of the most dramatic ever seen in limited-overs cricket. The Indians found themselves needing an enormous 190 runs to win from just 14.3 overs if they were to progress, but a stunning knock of 95 from just 44 balls from Corey Anderson gave them hope.
After some late confusion regarding net run rate, Mumbai eventually needed a boundary from the final ball of the day. Adita Tare launched it for six runs, sparking manic celebrations from the Mumbai players.
Here are the highlights from that encapsulating match:
The Indians will take on the Chennai Super Kings in the eliminator game, a team that looks the strongest on paper but has tailed off towards the end of the group stage.
Chennai have myriad batting talent in Brendon McCullum, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dwayne Smith, to name but a few, but rarely during the final stages of this tournament have they been able to establish any kind of fluency in their play. They won their last game of the round-robin stage, but prior to that they’d lost three consecutive games.
On the plus side, the Super Kings may not have to face Kings XI Punjab and a certain Glenn Maxwell until the final of the competition. In the two games that Chennai and Punjab have contested so far, Kings XI have scored an enormous 437 runs, with Maxwell accumulating a personal total of 190 over the two games.
He's struggled for form a little as of late, though, as illustrated here by ESPN Cricinfo:
The Punjab team finished top of the overall standings by four points, indicating their dominance over the course of the 14 matches played so far. Inspired by Maxwell—who has helped himself to 533 runs in the tournament so far—the team have swatted aside almost every side they’ve come across.
Maxwell looked as though he was going to run away with the Orange Cap—awarded to the player with the most runs scored—but he has been overhauled by Robin Uthappa, who will come up against the Aussie when Punjab meet the Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening qualifier.
After getting prized out for a duck against the Rajasthan Royals on 29 April, Uthappa has showcased some incredible consistency. He’s played nine games since then, with a low score of 40 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Freddie Wilde gives us a brilliant indicator of the form Uthappa is in here:
They’ve also been helped by dynamic batting from a few other members of their team, most notably Yusuf Pathan. In his previous game, Pathan smashed the fastest-ever IPL half-century. He went past the landmark after just 15 balls, despite being dropped on zero:
Kings XI rested Maxwell for their final group game, so he should be fresh for this one. Overall, the Punjab outfit should have enough to triumph over the Knight Riders, even if Uthappa fires. They seem to be a much more balanced outfit, and the likes of George Bailey and David Miller are more reliable than Pathan when it comes to adding runs at a rapid rate lower down the order.
Expect them to meet the Chennai Super Kings in the final, despite the obvious momentum accrued by the Mumbai Indians. The Chennai team are rife with experienced players, and they will surely be refocused and ready for the play-offs after their recent lull.
I’m still backing the Super Kings to go on and win the trophy, with their bowling options proving to be crucial in the final. Granted, they’ve been taken to task a couple of times by Punjab in this competition, but the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma are good enough to learn from those experiences and implement a much more clinical and effective game plan in the final.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPNcricinfo.com