The playoff schedule for the 2014 Indian Premier League is set. It is highlighted by a heavyweight tussle between first and second.
That match may generate more coverage. But the Eliminator is the truly intriguing encounter, featuring the form team of the season's final four weeks, the Mumbai Indians.
Here's a look at the full playoff schedule:
|Qualifier 1||Kings XI Punjab||Kolkata Knight Riders||Tue May 27 20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BST||Eden Gardens, Kolkata|
|Eliminator||Chennai Super Kings||Mumbai Indians||Wed May 28 20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BST||Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai|
|Qualifier 2||Winner of Eliminator||Loser of Qualifier 1||Fri May 30 20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BST||Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai|
|Final||Winner of Qualifier 1||Winner of Qualifier 2||Sun Jun 1 20:00 IST 14:30 GMT 15:30 BST||M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore|
Even playing in their own stadium might not be enough to help the Kolkata Knight Riders overcome the Kings XI Punjab. The latter boast a well-stocked squad with match-winners in every area.
The big question in the Eliminator is which version of the Chennai Super Kings will turn up? Will it be the one loaded with talented performers like batsmen Dwayne Smith and Faf du Plessis?
Or will it be the one that lost three out of its final four games?
Here are a pair of predictions for both of the opening games of the IPL playoffs:
Kings XI Punjab vs. Kolkata Knight Riders
Lakshmipathy Balaji and Sandeep Sharma Will Keep Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan Quiet
Prolific batsman Glenn Maxwell naturally generates a lot of attention for the Kings XI. But the real key to their first playoff game will be the performances of bowlers Lakshmipathy Balaji and Sandeep Sharma.
The pair have to corral Kolkata batsmen Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan. Fortunately, both Balaji and Singh are sly bowlers, capable of lulling a batsman into a mistake.
In particular, Sharma might be able to force a reckless swing from Pathan. Sharma boasts a respectable 17 wickets and an economy rate of 8.66, per figures from IPLT20.com.
He rarely varies his pace above or below medium, but Sharma has a habit of tempting a big swing at an inopportune moment.
Pathan might be tempted intro trying his luck considering his recent form. He blasted his way to 72 runs in the Knight Riders' final game, per India Times' reporter Sarang Bhalerao.
While Sharma can have success, Balaji will find it tougher to disrupt Orange Cap leader Robin Uthappa. Balaji can up the speed of his delivery when wants to, but few bowlers have stifled a batsman who has amassed 613 runs this season.
Kings XI Will Win
Punjab just has more options than the Knight Riders. Maxwell and David Miller form a formidable tandem in the batting order. But the team is also littered with solid all-rounders like Karanveer Singh and captain George Bailey.
Kolkata has been on the proverbial roll recently, winning four on the spin. But the Kings XI are masters at wearing teams down with their quality.
Expect them to do the same again in a close encounter.
Chennai Super Kings vs. Mumbai Indians
Lendl Simmons and Corey Anderson Will Put Up Big Numbers
Mumbai backed into the playoffs on the final day, but they will be a dangerous opponent for the Super Kings. Most of the danger will come from boom-or-bust batsmen Lendl Simmons and Corey Anderson.
The pair own the two highest individual scores from this season's league play, according to IPLT20.com. Anderson's 95 played a key role in the Indians' heroic effort against the Rajasthan Royals that sealed a place in the Eliminator.
At least one member of this duo will enjoy a big day at Wankhede Stadium. Preventing that is the challenge faced by Ravindra Jadeja, who is, statistically, the best all-round bowler in the competition.
If Singh can't manage it, Chennai's inconsistent batting order won't be able to keep pace with Simmons and Anderson.
The Indians Produce the Upset
It may not be an upset in terms of form, but there's no doubt the Super Kings boast the superior talent. Yet that won't stop a game Mumbai team, which owns all the momentum, from recording a win on home soil.