IPL 2012 May 18, 2012

Four teams, two spots

A look at which team needs to do what to make it to the playoffs

With only four round-robin matches to go in the IPL, two playoff places are still up for grabs, with four teams contesting for those two spots. Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders have already booked their places, but here's what the other teams need to do to make the cut.

Mumbai Indians
To play: Rajasthan Royals (away)

A win in their last match will mean Mumbai Indians finish their league games on 20 points, which will surely put them in the top three; if Kolkata Knight Riders lose their last game, then Mumbai Indians will finish in the top two. However, if they lose to Royals their task of qualifying becomes much tougher, since four other teams will have a chance of getting 18 or more points. Mumbai Indians' net run rate is also a worry - at -0.16, they're only marginally better than Kings XI Punjab (-0.172). If Kings XI win their last match and Mumbai Indians lose theirs, it's very likely that Kings XI will end up with a better NRR too. And then there's also Royal Challengers Bangalore, who'll go past Mumbai Indians if they beat Deccan Chargers in their final game. If they lose to Royals, Mumbai Indians must hope that not more than one out of Royal Challengers and King XI get to 18 or more points. The advantage for Mumbai Indians is that their match against Royals is the last of the league stage, so they'll know exactly what they need to do to progress.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
To play: Deccan Chargers (away)

If Royal Challengers beat Chargers, they'll definitely progress to the last four, though it'll be almost impossible to take second place even if Knight Riders lose, because of their respective net run rates. However, if they lose, they'll definitely be out, since Chennai Super Kings already have 17 points and a better NRR - Royal Challengers can't catch up on the NRR if they lose.

Chennai Super Kings
Have played all 16 matches

Three teams already have more points than Super Kings' 17, and their only hope of sneaking in as the fourth side into the playoffs is if all the other teams in contention lose most of their matches. Thus they'll want Royal Challengers and Kings XI to lose their last matches. If all those results go the way of Super Kings, they'll still make the cut as their net run rate will remain more than that of Royal Challengers.

Kings XI Punjab
To play: Delhi Daredevils (home)

The unexpected defeat for Royals against Chargers means Kings XI have a better chance of qualification. But for that, they need to win their last match, and hope that at least one of Royal Challengers and Mumbai Indians lose their last game. If Royal Challengers lose and Mumbai Indians win, then Kings XI and Mumbai Indians will qualify. If Royal Challengers win and Mumbai Indians lose, then Kings XI will still most likely go through on a better net run rate than Mumbai Indians. For instance, if Kings XI score 150 and win by two runs, and if Mumbai Indians score 148 and lose by two runs, Kings XI will sneak ahead on NRR.

The battle for the top two spots

Daredevils have already made sure they'll finish among the top two: even if they lose their last game and Mumbai Indians win theirs, Daredevils will still end with a superior net run rate. A win for Knight Riders will give them a place in the top two, but even a defeat will do that job if Mumbai Indians lose their last match. What's certain is that the top two* positions will be decided among these three teams: Daredevils, Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians. (Royal Challengers have a theoretical chance, but even if they win by 60 runs and Knight Riders lose by a similar margin, Knight Riders will still have a higher net run rate.)

*14:10 GMT, May 18: The article had earlier said 'top three'. It has been corrected
18:12 GMT, May 18: This article has been updated to reflect that Rajasthan Royals are out of the race

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter