Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab's players interact during their match.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
With the all-important play-offs berths still at stake, three of the four teams featuring in Sunday’s double-header will have the last chance to flourish and advance in the current edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) .
The results of Sunday's matches will more or less make the play-offs picture clear as the two clashes are set to seal the fate of KKR, RR and KXIP, who have everything to play for.
While Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will take on Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will face off against Rajasthan Royals (RR). Chennai, though already out of the tournament, could play spoilers for KXIP.
The unpredictable and inconsistent performances of most of the participating teams have sent the tournament into a spin with a topsy-turvy table that still keeps on swaying either way after every match.
The late revivals of teams like Rajasthan, Punjab and even Hyderabad, not to speak of pretty underwhelming performances by Delhi Capitals -- who have slipped down in the table owing to their five losses in on a trot -- have left the race for the play-offs wide open.
Delhi’s loss against Mumbai Indians has further complicated the quest for qualification as now they remain on third spot with just 14 points, meaning that their play-off berth is far from confirmed. However, they have one more game left against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
In the first match of the double-header, Punjab will bid to consolidate their position in the rankings. Punjab have 12 points from 13 games and a victory against Chennai will take them to 14 points.
They will then be waiting with bated breath for the result of the Kolkata-Rajasthan match, both of whom are on 12 points, therefore resulting in the losers' elimination from the tournament.
The winners of the KKR-RR tie though will move up and the net run rate will come into play if two or more teams are tied on points.
Because of playing the late match, both Kolkata and Rajasthan will be in a position to know by what margin they need to win the game to knock out Punjab even if the latter beat Kolkata.
Punjab have the best run rate among the three teams and they will be looking to beat Chennai by a huge margin to put qualification beyond the reach of Rajasthan or Kolkata.
Punjab’s miraculous turnaround in the tournament, with the help of five wins on a trot, has seen them move from the bottom to the fourth spot in the standings, before they lost their last match against a ruthless Rajasthan. Despite posting a huge total of 185, Punjab lost the match.
Punjab seem to be peaking at the right time. Ever since their swashbuckling West Indian batsman Chris Gayle joined the team, their batting line-up has been boosted and they have become an unbeatable force.
Gayle propelled them to 185 with a blitzkrieg 63-ball 99 against Rajasthan, before Ben Stokes and Sanju Samson took the game away from them with scintillating knocks.
Captain KL Rahul is the highest scorer in the tournament with more than 600 plus runs under his belt. He has already hit one century and five fifties. Mayank Agarwal was also in stupendous form before an injury kept him out of the last few matches.
In the absence of Agarwal, Mandeep Singh made the best use of his chance and smashed a match-winning fifty in his first match before getting out for a duck against Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, an inconsistent Kolkata will have the last chance to make up for their howlers and keep their hopes alive with a win against a rampant Rajasthan, who are coming into the match on the back of two huge victories.
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