IPL-2021: Play-Off Encounters To Start From Sunday, The 10th October!

Finally, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) made it to the 4th spot in the play-offs of the Indian Premiere League (IPL-2021) on the basis of net run-rate, staging an intensely spirited fight against Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the first of the double-headers played in Sharjah on 7th October. Thanks to a brilliant start led by the openers Shubman Gill (56) and Venkatesh Iyer (38) KKR put up a total of 171 runs for RR. Although the total was not unassailable the KKR bowlers responded equally intensely and bowled out RR for just 85, even lower than what they achieved in their previous low of 90 runs against Mumbai Indians (MI). For KKR the player-of-the-match pacer Shivam Mavi capturing 4 scalps for 21 runs in 3.1 overs, pacer Lockie Ferguson getting 3 for 18 runs in 4 overs and spinners Shakib and Chakravarthy capturing one wicket each. The huge victory margin further improved Kolkata’s net run-rate to over +0.5 which meant that Mumbai had to defeat the Sun Risers Hyderabad (SRH) by a margin of 171 runs—a feat considered ‘mission impossible’ by all cricket experts and lovers. So, KKR’s place in the play-offs was almost ensured.


Defending Champions Mumbai, in the double-headers played simultaneously in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (for the first time in the history of IPL) yesterday the 8th October, tried in the most gallant way to accomplish the impossible. Fortunately, they won the toss and obviously elected to bat so that there was no limit to the target they wanted to set. Ishan Kishan (84 in 32 balls), restored to his natural position of an opener, blasted his way to the fastest fifty in the UAE part of the tournament off just 16 balls and went on keeping the run-rate over 12 per over consistently. When Mumbai scored an incredible 124 in 9 overs a total of 270+ seemed probable and the ‘mission impossible’ looked probable too if they bowl out the lowly SRH for a total below 100 runs. Had Rohit Sharma not fallen early the impossible could have been a distinct possibility. But, as is usual in cricket, either the good phases or  the bad ones do not last long and MI, further helped by a fiery 82 in 40 balls by Surya Kumar Yadav, had to satisfy themselves with 235/9 runs, the highest score by a team this season and the first time any team crossed 200 in UAE. With nothing to lose Hyderabad batted freely keeping up a healthy run-rate finally losing by 42 runs. Mumbai had achieved the primary target of getting 14 points, but failed to overhaul the net run-rate of KKR, thus eliminated at the fifth position.


In the second match of the double-header played on 7th October KL Rahul blasted his way to 98 runs off just 42 balls not out, just missing out on the fastest century made this season so far, winning the match for this team Punjab Kings (PBKS) against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by six wickets, achieving the target of 135 runs in only the 13th over. This huge win gave PBKS 12 points and an improved net run-rate to remain in contention, hoping for Mumbai to lose very badly to SRH. With this result, two consecutive poor outings for Chennai are not going to help the team much in the coming challenges, staying put in their second spot thanks only to the still higher net run-rate. The celebrated Indian former captain MS Dhoni too seems to be doing nothing much to write home about. 


In the other match of the concurrent double-header yesterday in Dubai, Delhi Capitals (DC), secure in the top position with 20 points, faced the struggling Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and put into bat progressed fairly enough to a total of 164 runs thanks mainly to the openers Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw, the innings ending without a single half-century by any batsman. RCB faltered at the start losing both Kohli and Padikkal early, and it was because of a brilliant innings of 78 not out of the new-found KS Bharat and Glen Maxwell (51) that RCB got closer and closer to the target. Even then, the victory was very tough going to the last ball when 5 runs were needed. And Bharat played an exhilarating six of the last ball ensuring a win by 7 wickets, but failing obviously to overhaul the net run-rate of CSK to move to the second spot. Despite the win RCB has something to worry about: with 7 wickets standing they had to produce an improbable six in the last ball to win this match; as also in an earlier match against the lowly SRH with 4 wickets standing and more significantly AB de Villiers at the crease, RCB failed to clinch the issue losing by 4 runs; and the issue of AB de Villiers indeed, this brilliant batsman still in a subdued situation for tactical errors by team management.


The play-off matches are starting tomorrow, Sunday the 10th of October. Qualifier-1 will feature the top two teams DC and CSK—the winner straightaway entering the Final and the loser awaiting the result of the Eliminator that will take place on Monday the 11th of October between the No. 3 RCB and No.4 KKR—the winner meeting the loser of Qualifier-1 and the loser getting eliminated. Qualifier-2 is to be held on 13th October between the loser of Qualifier-1 and the winner of the Eliminator—the winner of this match entering the Final to be played on 15th October.


As per performance consistency and intensity DC and the KKR are highly placed to win the IPL-2021 title, unless CSK and RCB manage to produce something out of the ordinary. Yes, cricket being the game of glorious uncertainty nothing can be predicted. And that makes the coming matches very exciting to wait and watch out for. We’ve fortunately seen some class cricket involving all the departments of batting, bowling and fielding in the last four matches and hope this would continue. (All photos: iplt20.com)


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