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PSL scenarios: Karachi Kings best placed in five-way battle for three knockout spots

The Karachi Kings players celebrate a wicket PCB

With just three games left in the league stage of the PSL, five teams are still in the hunt to take the three spots still up for grabs. Multan Sultans, with 14 points from nine games, are the only team assured of a semi-final spot. Here's a look at what the other teams need to do to qualify.

Karachi Kings

Matches: 8, Points: 9; To play: Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators

Among the five teams fighting for a place in the last four, Karachi Kings are the best placed, since they are already in second place with nine points, and they are the only team with two matches still left: they play Islamabad United on Saturday and Quetta Gladiators on Sunday. A win in either of those games will seal second place on the points table.

If they lose both games, though, things could get complicated. A win for Lahore Qalandars in their last game against Multan Sultans will lift them to 10 points, with the other four teams on nine each. Among them, Islamabad United already have a better net run rate than the Kings, while Peshawar Zalmi's net run rate of -0.055 is only marginally below Kings' -0.027. Two losses could easily push Kings' NRR below Zalmi's.

If the Kings lose both games, they will want the Sultans to beat the Qalandars, so that four teams are level on nine points and fighting for three spots. Then the Kings should still be ahead of the Gladiators on NRR unless they lose both matches badly (say, by around 50 runs each).

Peshawar Zalmi

Matches: 10, Points: 9

Zalmi's narrow three-run defeat against the Sultans on Friday means they are now dependent on other results going their way to qualify.

Their worst-case scenario would be if the Qalandars win and move to 10, and if United beat the Kings, who in turn beat the Gladiators. In that case, the Sultans, the Kings, the Qalandars and United will qualify, as United already have a better NRR (0.259) than Zalmi (-0.055). However, if the Kings beat United but lose to the Gladiators, then that would work fine for Zalmi, as the Gladiators' NRR is so poor (-1.052) that they will have to win by around 145 runs to go past Zalmi's NRR.

The best case for Zalmi will be if the Qalandars lose and stay on eight points. In that case Zalmi will surely qualify. Even if the Kings lose both games, Zalmi will still make the cut on NRR along with the Kings and United, as the Gladiators are too far behind on NRR.

Lahore Qalandars

Matches: 9, Points: 8; To play: Multan Sultans

A win against the Sultans will put the Qalandars in the semi-finals. If they lose, though, they can qualify only if the Kings win both their games, in which case both United and the Gladiators will remain on seven points. If the Kings lose either of their games, the Qalandars won't qualify with eight points.

Islamabad United

Matches: 9, Points: 7; To play: Karachi Kings

United are currently in fifth place, but they are the only team apart from the Sultans with a positive NRR (0.259). That means they will surely qualify if they win their final league game, against the Kings, regardless of other results: even if the Qalandars win their last game and move to 10 points, and the Kings beat the Gladiators, United will still take fourth place because of a higher NRR than Zalmi. If the Kings lose both games and there is a four-way tie on nine points, United will still have the best NRR among those four teams.

That means the winner of Saturday's game between United and the Kings will surely go through to the semi-finals.

Quetta Gladiators

Matches: 9, Points: 7, To play: Karachi Kings

The Gladiators are in the same position as United in terms of matches played, points, and the opponent in their final league game, but the one difference between them is massive: United's NRR is 0.259, while Gladiators' is -1.052. That net run rate means Gladiators will struggle to make it if qualification comes down to NRR.

Their best chance, therefore, is a scenario where net run rates don't come into play. For that to happen, the Qalandars will have to lose to the Sultans and remain on eight points, while the Kings will need to beat United. Then, if the Gladiators win their last game, they will qualify along with the Sultans, the Kings and Zalmi.