IPL 2014 May 21, 2014

KKR, Royals favourites in five-team race

IPL scenarios - Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are all but into the last four, along with Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings

Sunrisers Hyderabad's win against Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 20 made one thing clear: teams with at least 16 points (Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab) are assured of a playoff spot. Super Kings' loss to Kolkata Knight Riders later that day, however, raised the bar for qualification to at least 14 points. In fact, with only nine games to go, there's still a possibility of five teams being tied on 14 points at the end of the league stage, fighting for two spots. ( Click here for the points table.)

Delhi Daredevils are the only team definitely out of the tournament, and of the remaining nine league games, only their match against Kings XI will have no impact on who makes the top four. Here's what five teams need to do to give themselves the best chance of securing the two available playoff spots.

Rajasthan Royals (14 points, to play away games v Kings XI, Mumbai)
Had Royals won their previous match against Mumbai Indians, they would have made the playoffs with 16 points. However, without Ajinkya Rahane, Pravin Tambe and Steven Smith, Royals lost by 25 runs and must now win at least one of their remaining two matches. Defeat against Kings XI and Mumbai will leave them dependent on the results of matches not involving them.

Kolkata Knight Riders (14 points, to play home games v RCB, Sunrisers)
Knight Riders, on a five-match winning streak, are favourites to qualify for the playoffs. They need to win only one of their remaining two games and will enjoy home advantage at Eden Gardens. If they lose both games, however, Knight Riders will be dependent on net run rate if Royal Challengers, Sunrisers or Mumbai make it to 14 points.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (10 points, to play KKR away and CSK at home)
Royal Challengers have to win their last two games to make it to 14 points and also need either Royals or Knight Riders (or both) to lose their remaining matches. A huge win at Eden Gardens is vital because such a result will erode Knight Riders' net run rate, while improving Royal Challengers'. If Royals and Knight Riders manage to win one game each, Royal Challengers are out.

Sunrisers Hyderabad (10 points, to play away games v CSK, KKR)
The equation for Sunrisers is similar to that of Royal Challengers, except their net run rate is slightly worse. They play the same opposition as Royal Challengers and would give themselves an outside chance by beating Knight Riders by a large margin.

Mumbai Indians (10 points, to play Daredevils and Royals at home)
Mumbai, like Royal Challengers and Sunrisers, have to win both remaining games to get to 14 points. Their net run rate is better than that of Sunrisers and Royal Challengers and a big win like that against Kings XI will boost their chances. If both Royal Challengers and Sunrisers lose at least one game, and Royals lose to Kings XI, the last league match, Indians v Royals, will be a knockout*.

The race for the top two
If Kings XI win one of their last two games, they will finish either first or second and have two opportunities to qualify for the final. They enjoy a strong net run rate too. Super Kings have to win both their remaining games to be a certainty in the top two. If they do not, they will be dependent on net run rate and other results. Apart from Kings XI and Super Kings, Royals and Knight Riders also have a chance of finishing in the top two.

This article was updated to reflect the changes after Mumbai Indians' win against Kings XI Punjab

*MI and possibly RR will have a NRR target to achieve in that match

Shiva Jayaraman is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo.com