The Sydney Sixers have strengthened their chances of playing the Melbourne Stars in the Qualifier on January 31, following their win over Brisbane Heat on Thursday. The result means the Adelaide Strikers are the only team left to challenge the Sixers for second place on the ladder at the end of the double-round-robin league stage.

It's been a horror-show for Heat with the bat in the last few matches, but all is not yet lost for them as the ninth edition of the BBL gives a lifeline to even the fifth-placed team on the table. This season of the BBL features four matches - three knockout matches and a qualifier - to decide the finalists on February 8. In the first of the three knockout matches, the fourth and fifth-placed teams play each other to decide which team progresses to the next knockout stage. With the Stars, the Sixers and the Strikers securing a place in the playoffs, and the defending champions Melbourne Renegades out of the race, there are four teams vying for the two spots still up for grabs.

Here's what the teams that still have a chance need to do.

Hobart Hurricanes, nine points from 12 games

Still to play: Thunder, Strikers

The Hurricanes are currently second from bottom, but they could still qualify without the complication of net run rate (NRR) if they win both their remaining games to get to 13 points, and if a few other things fall into place for them. The Hurricanes need Thunder to lose both their remaining matches, and Heat to win not more than one of theirs. This will ensure that Thunder and Heat join the Renegades at the bottom of the table, leaving the Hurricanes to scrape through to the playoffs.

If Thunder win against the Scorchers, they will also join the Hurricanes on 13 points (having lost to Hurricanes on Friday). However, this is unlikely to end well for the Hurricanes given their poor NRR. In this scenario too, Heat have to win at most one of their two remaining matches.

The Hurricanes could tie with Thunder for fifth place on 11 points if Thunder lose both their remaining games, one of which is against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes will also need Heat to lose both their remaining games and stay on 10 points. It will then come down to NRR between the Hurricanes and Thunder. But the odds of that happening are not in favour of the Hurricanes given their inferior NRR compared with Thunder.

Brisbane Heat, 10 points from 12 games

Still to play: Stars, Renegades

The loss against the Sydney Sixers has pushed Heat to the brink. There's hope for them yet, but they will need help from other results. First up, they will need to win their remaining two matches and get to 14 points. They will have to make sure they win handsomely too, to improve their NRR, should it come to that. It will help them immensely if Sydney Thunder lose at least one of their two remaining games, or if the Perth Scorches lose both. This will ensure that one of these two teams is behind Heat on points. With the Hurricanes and the Renegades unable to get to 14 points, Heat will qualify with four other teams.

Heat are likely to run into the wall of NRR if Thunder win both their remaining matches - one of which is against the Scorchers - and the Scorchers win theirs against Adelaide Strikers to tie with them on 14 points. Then it will be down to NRR between Heat and Scorchers. Heat are unlikely to survive this battle as their NRR of -0.582 is currently inferior to the Scorchers' 0.066.

Sydney Thunder, 11 points from 12 games

Still to play: Hurricanes, Scorchers

Thunder will qualify if they win both their remaining matches and move to 15 points since Heat, the Hurricanes and the Renegades can't get to 15 points.

Thunder can qualify with 13 points too, with help from various combinations of results between the other teams. One straightforward way of that would be if the Scorchers lose both their remaining matches (one of which is against Thunder) to stay on 12 points and Heat don't win more than one of their remaining games to also stay on 12. That will leave Thunder as one of the top five teams on points since the Renegades are already out of the race.

Thunder could qualify even if they end up losing both their remaining games, but they would have to make sure that their NRR doesn't suffer by too much in these losses. For that to happen, they need Heat to lose both their remaining matches and the Hurricanes to lose their match against the Strikers. In this scenario, Thunder will be tied on points with the Hurricanes, and, given the latter's poor NRR, Thunder are likely to finish ahead of them.

Perth Scorchers, 12 points from 12 games

Still to play: Strikers, Thunder

The Scorchers are the best-placed team to qualify of the four. They will make it if they win their remaining matches and get to 16 points or if they beat Thunder on Sunday. A win on Sunday will make sure Thunder stay on 13 points or less, and with the Hurricanes and the Renegades out of the 14-point race, the Scorchers will finish as one of the top five teams.

If the Scorchers lose to Thunder but beat the Strikers to get to 14 points, they could qualify without relying on NRR, provided Thunder lose to the Hurricanes, or Heat manage to win at most one of their remaining matches. This will mean that one of the two teams among Thunder or Heat don't get to 14 points, and join the Hurricanes and the Renegades in the bottom three.

If Thunder beat the Hurricanes too (and go to 15 points ahead of the Scorchers) and Heat manage to win both their remaining games, then the Scorchers will be tied on 14 points with Heat. Should that happen, it will come down to NRR between the Scorchers and Heat for fifth place.

The Scorchers could qualify even if they lose both their remaining games, but would need Heat to also lose both their matches and the Hurricanes to win not more than one of theirs'.

Two-team race for second

It is left to the Sixers and the Strikers to battle for the second spot and the opportunity to have two cracks at getting into the final. The Sixers have their nose ahead in the race as they already have a two-point lead over the Strikers, and a game against the bottom-placed Renegades on Saturday. The Strikers have two matches left, against the Scorchers and the Hurricanes, and will do well to beat the Scorchers and not leave it to the result of the Sixers-Renegades game.