With 16 matches left in the group stage of the IPL, no team is yet certain of qualification for the final four, while only Deccan Chargers have been eliminated. Here's a look at where the other nine teams stand, and in what scenarios they will either make the cut or miss out.
Mumbai Indians are obviously the favourites at the moment - despite the heavy defeat to Punjab - but by no means are they a certainty for the last four. If they lose their remaining three games, there is a possibility four teams will overtake their points tally of 16, which will mean Mumbai will be eliminated without net run-rate coming into play. One example is the following: Rajasthan win their three remaining games, Chennai and Kolkata win two out of three and Bangalore win two out of four. Then Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Rajasthan will all have more points than Mumbai.
On the other hand, if Kochi win their remaining three games and Mumbai lose theirs, then they'll both be on 16. It's then possible that Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore will all have more points, with Kochi and Mumbai battling for the final slot on net run-rate.
However, if Mumbai win one more game, they'll be through.
Chennai Super Kings are sitting pretty too with 14 points in 11 matches, but they too will need two wins from their remaining three matches to be sure of a spot in the final four. If they end up on 16, there's a possibility of four teams - Mumbai, Kolkata, Rajasthan and Bangalore - overtaking that number. Alternatively, Kochi could end up on 16 if they win their last three, in which case net run-rate could come into play, but Chennai's is much better than Kochi's.
Kolkata Knight Riders have numbers that are very similar to Chennai's, but two of their last three matches are against Bangalore and Mumbai, who are among the best teams in IPL 2011. Sixteen points may not be enough if Rajasthan win their last three, since Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore are all well-placed to go past 16.
Royal Challengers Bangalore are on 13 points, but they have played a game less than most other teams. Because of the washout against Rajasthan, these two teams are sitting on an odd number of points, which makes their situation a slightly tricky one. Depending on how the other results pan out, Bangalore could go through to the last four if they finish on 15 points, but on the other hand, they could also be eliminated if they end up with 17 points.
Say, for example, that Bangalore win two of their last four, Rajasthan win all three, Kolkata and Chennai win at least two and Mumbai one. Then, three teams will have more points than Bangalore, while Rajasthan will be tied with them on 17, bringing net run-rate into play. Bangalore are well clear of Rajasthan in that area, so two wins should most likely be enough.
On the other hand, 15 points could also be enough for Bangalore if Rajasthan win only one of their last three, and if Kochi win no more than two. Even if Rajasthan win two, they'll only be on 15, and net run-rate will decide which of Bangalore or Rajasthan make the cut. In fact, even if Bangalore lose all four, they could still be in contention if the following happens: Rajasthan win only one of their last three (against Bangalore), Kochi win no more than one, and Punjab no more than two. (A match-by-match iteration shows this scenario is possible.) Then, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata will be through, with Bangalore and Rajasthan tied on 13, fighting for the final slot.
Rajasthan Royals have slipped up a bit after two successive losses to Chennai - they've played a game more than Bangalore, but are two points behind them. Like Bangalore, they could be eliminated despite finishing with 17: if Bangalore win their last three games, Kolkata beat Pune and Mumbai, Chennai beat Delhi and Kochi, and Mumbai beat Deccan, then Bangalore will finish with 19, while Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai will have 18 points each.
On the other hand, even with 13 points Rajasthan could have an outside chance if Bangalore lose all their remaining games, but given Rajasthan's poor run-rate, it's highly unlikely they can pip Bangalore and take the final spot.
Kochi Tuskers have had a mixed campaign so far, losing six games and winning five. Victories in each of their last three matches will keep them in contention if other results go their way, but there's a very slim chance of making it with 14 points - they could be level with Chennai, Kolkata, or both, depending on how many of their last three matches Chennai and Kolkata win. However, Kochi's abysmal net run-rate of -0.624, the worst among all teams, means they're the least likely side to win a net run-rate battle, unless they win their remaining matches by huge margins, and Kolkata and Chennai lose badly.
Kings XI Punjab are one of three teams on eight points, but they have a game in hand. That means they could finish with as many as 16 points, but even that might not be enough if Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore win at least two matches each, which is a possibility given the schedules for the teams.
On the other hand, three wins and a tally of 14 could also give them a chance, if other results go their way - for example, if Chennai and Kolkata lose each of their last three games, it could come down to net run-rate for the last one or two slots. Punjab's net run-rate of -0.432, though, is among the poorer ones in the tournament so far.
Pune Warriors have lost seven out of 11 matches, but the silver lining is the fact that many of their defeats have been narrow while most of the wins have been convincing, because of which their net run-rate is a relatively healthy -0.003; they've lost four times with four or fewer balls to spare, and won three times with ten or more deliveries left.
However, the maximum points they can finish with is 14, and three teams already have 14 or more. For Pune to qualify, they'll obviously have to win all three and hope other results go their way: as mentioned in the example above, if Chennai and Kolkata lose each of their matches, and if Rajasthan win no more than one game, then three or more teams could be tied on 14 and vying for the last two slots.
Delhi Daredevils are in a similar position as Pune with four wins in 11 games, though with a poorer net run-rate. They'll have to win their last three games by convincing margins, and then hope at least one of Chennai or Kolkata lose all their remaining games.
Deccan Chargers aren't in contention any more, but with three games to play, they could still play spoilsport and mar the chances of one of the other teams trying to make the knockout stage.