<
>

Race to the playoffs: Royals and Sunrisers eye fourth spot, Capitals seek top-two finish

The Sunrisers Hyderabad players congratulate Manish Pandey after a difficult catch BCCI

With the final weekend of the league stage upon us, the last playoffs spot is still up for grabs. The three teams at the top of the table, meanwhile, are still jostling for the top two positions. ESPNcricinfo takes a look at what is at stake in Saturday's double-header.

The Delhi Capitals v Rajasthan Royals game is vital for both teams, although for different reasons. Royals need to win to stay in contention for the last playoffs berth, while a victory will give Capitals a reasonable chance of finishing in the top two.

Capitals' net run rate (NRR) currently is -0.096, the worst among the top three teams, thanks to their 80-run loss to Chennai Super Kings on Wednesday. To give themselves the best chance of finishing in the top two, Capitals need to win by a big margin, so they can offset some of their NRR damage and sneak past Super Kings' run rate if they lose their last match, on Sunday. That can happen if Capitals defeat Royals by 40 runs on Saturday, and Super Kings lose by the same margin to Kings XI Punjab on Sunday. Should both matches produce the aforementioned results, Capitals can take the second spot ahead of Super Kings even if Mumbai Indians win their last game to finish as table-toppers.

However, if both Super Kings and Mumbai win on Sunday, Capitals will need to have a better NRR than Mumbai to make it to the top two, which will be a tall order, given the currently second-placed Mumbai's NRR is 0.321, the best among the top three. If they beat Kolkata Knight Riders even by only five runs on Sunday, Capitals will need to beat Royals by around 115 runs to go past Mumbai's NRR. Capitals, therefore, will almost certainly be relegated to third place if both Super Kings and Mumbai Indians win on Sunday.

Meanwhile, if Capitals lose on Saturday, it is a near-certainty they will miss out on the top two spots. Even if they lose by only five runs, they will need Mumbai to lose by around 115 runs to finish ahead of them on NRR.

For Royals, the equation is quite clear: beat Capitals and finish on 13 points, and hope that Sunrisers Hyderabad and Knight Riders both lose their last match and remain on 12 points. If that happens, Royals will take the fourth playoff spot.

Sunrisers can clinch the last knockouts berth in the second game on Saturday, should they beat Royal Challengers Bangalore. Their current NRR of 0.653 is so far ahead of Knight Riders' 0.173 that almost any margin of victory for Sunrisers should see them through. If Sunrisers win by five runs, Knight Riders will need a victory margin of around 125 runs against Mumbai to go past Sunrisers' NRR.

If Sunrisers lose to Royal Challengers, they could still qualify if Knight Riders and Royals both lose their last game.