IPL 2020: Huddled, teams seek physical distancing at top
Till a few days ago, Mumbai Indians (MI), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Delhi Capitals (DC) were the form teams of IPL13, huddled at the top with only Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) within touching distance.
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Things changed somewhat dramatically at the weekend following a string of unexpected results. In twin double headers on Saturday and Sunday, KKR thumped DC before Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in a low-scoring thriller. Then, bottom-placed Chennai Super Kings (CSK) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) upset MI. The trend continued into the new week with KXIP and SRH staying alive following comprehensive victories over KKR and DC, respectively.
That meant for the first time in the history of an eight-team IPL, no team has crossed 14 points after 47 of the 56 league matches. Seven teams are in the running for the four play-offs spots with only CSK eliminated. Sure, MI, RCB and DC remain favourites to make the play-offs but they will be stretched. And the race for the fourth spot is set for a close finish.
From winning seven of their first nine games, DC have lost their next three. “One win is important (to seal a playoff berth) and we are waiting for that since the last three games and back to back losses are definitely going to put us under the pump,” said DC skipper Shreyas Iyer after Tuesday’s 88-run defeat to SRH. “But the boys are really strong and I think this loss is going to motivate us.”
DC aren’t the only toppers stuttering. MI went into Wednesday’s game with two loses in their last three; RCB have won only two of their last four games and having been defeated in two of the last three rounds, KKR have dropped out of the top four.
The shocks at the top have come because teams in the bottom half have started winning - KXIP have risen from the dead, winning five in a row and SRH and RR have won two of their last three. Even eighth-placed CSK have played party-poopers winning their last game.
Before Wednesday’s match, MI and RCB had three games in hand, the rest two. The maximum points MI and RCB can reach is 20. DC can touch 18; KKR and KXIP 16. Winning their remaining games will take SRH and RR to 14 and should other results go their way, both can sneak into the play-offs.
DC’s remaining games are against MI and RCB. Both being in contention for the top two spots - which assures the team losing the first play-off (Qualifier 1) another chance while the winners go through to the final - they will come hard at DC. MI finish league engagements against SRH as do RCB.
On form, KXIP are the most dangerous because three of their last five successive wins have come against the top three. But they face RR and CSK in their remaining games when both have found some spark.
In the race for the fourth spot, fourth-placed KXIP and fifth-placed KKR play the same opponents in their last two league fixtures: RR and CSK. If they have win both, net run-rate will come into play where KXIP have an advantage. That also means four teams can finish on 16. It’s getting really hot on the homestretch.
(With inputs from Rajesh Pansare)
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