The top of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015 table is chock-a-block with teams breathing down each other's neck. It's just five matches to go before the playoffs, but the much-sought-after berths are still up for grabs and there's still no clarity on who all will make the cut.
And Mumbai Indians (MI) made matters more exciting on Thursday night after edging defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in a thriller .
Staying on course for the playoffs, Mumbai took their points tally to 14 with one last away game against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on May 17, while Kolkata have 15 points with one match in hand against Rajasthan Royals (RR) to be played at the Cricket Club of India's Brabourne Stadium on May 16.
KKR will now have to win against the Royals (14 points in 13 matches) in their last league match to earn a place in the playoffs with ease -- without depending on the performance of other teams.
Kolkata skipper Gautam Gambhir knows that. "Nothing comes easy for KKR. We've always had to work hard and scrape through, I hope we get our number one game for the 16th," he said after the match that saw Mumbai's Hardik Pandya blasting an unbeaten 61 to sink the KKR ship.On the other hand, if Rajasthan lose the match, they will be out of the tournament.
Theoretically, six teams – Chennai Super Kings (CSK), KKR, SRH, MI, RR and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) – still have a chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) are the only two sides which do not have any mathematical chance of making it.
With their win against KKR on Thursday, Mumbai climbed from sixth to fourth spot, whereas Kolkata remained in second spot. CSK are on top with 16 points from 13 matches.
Third-placed SRH (14 points from 12 matches) and RCB (13 points from 12 matches) have a bit of an advantage going into the final stretch of the league stage, as both have two games in hand. And guess what! These two teams will have to play each other in a make-or-break contest.
Meanwhile, Chennai and fifth-placed Rajasthan -- who seem to have lost steam after kicking off the season with a bang -- are left with one game each.
There are no easy answers at this point. It seems the contest is going down to the wire.