IPL 2023: KKR's win sets the stage for a nail-biting playoff race

The last nine league stage matches could produce some enthralling battles this week


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Kolkata Knight Riders' Nitish Rana plays a shot. — AFP
Kolkata Knight Riders' Nitish Rana plays a shot. — AFP

Published: Sun 14 May 2023, 10:59 PM

What promised to be a nail-biting finish in the English Premier League title race is now turning out to be a cakewalk for Manchester City. Arsenal's collapse at home on Sunday left Pep Guardiola's side needing just one win from its remaining three games to be champion of England again.

But thousands of miles away in the Indian Premier League — cricket's answer to football's English Premier League — the battle for the top four to be in the playoffs has got more intense.

With the Kolkata Knight Riders' shock six-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings on Sunday night, the playoffs race is now tantalisingly poised.

Eight out of 10 teams are still jostling for a place in the last four stage, with four of them, Royal Challengers Bangalore (12 matches), Rajasthan Royals (13 matches), Kolkata Knight Riders (13 matches) and Punjab Kings (12 matches) tied on 12 points each, only the net run rate separating them on the points table.

The top four in the table — Gujarat Titans (16 points from 12 matches), Chennai Super Kings (15 points from 13 matches), Mumbai Indians (14 points from 12 matches) and Lucknow Super Giants (13 points from 12 matches) — still remain in the driver's seat for playoff spots.

But in a league that has seen several twists and turns, nobody would dare to write off the mid-table teams.

Unlike the English Premier League where the City's biggest challenger, Arsenal, seems to have shown the white flag, nobody is ready to give an inch in the IPL playoffs race.

The stage is now set for the last nine league stage matches which could produce some enthralling battles this week.

Indomitable spirit

Going to Chennai to face MS Dhoni's Yellow Army is one of the hardest battles in sports.

But failure was not an option for Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday.

In the do-or-die battle, the two-time champion produced one of its best performances of the season.

First, its bowlers, led by Sunil Narine (4-0-15--2) did an outstanding job in restricting the formidable Chennai batting line-up to 144 for six.

Without Shivam Dube's 34-ball 48 not out, even reaching the 130 mark would not have been possible for the four-time champion.

In reply, the Knights suffered early blows, losing three wickets for 33.

But in Rinku Singh (54 off 43 balls) and skipper Nitish Rana (57 not out off 44 balls), the Knights found the perfect batting pair to weather the storm on a slow surface.

"The ball didn't turn in the second innings. Credit to our spinners for how well they bowled. I always felt that if I or Rinku could hold one end up, we will chase this down. That's what happened," Rana said.

Rana's men will be at home, Eden Gardens, in their last game against the Lucknow Super Giants on Saturday when even a victory might not be enough for the side to reach the last four stage.

But its comprehensive win on Sunday has potentially dealt a big blow to Chennai's hopes.

Dhoni's team faces its must-win final league game against the already-eliminated Delhi Capitals on Saturday.

Brief scores:

Kolkata Knight Riders beats Chennai Super Kings by six wickets.

Chennai Super Kings 144/6 (Shivam Dube 48 not out, Devon Conway 30; Sunil Narine 2/15)

Kolkata Knight Riders 147/4 (Nitish Rana 57 not out, Rinku Singh 54; Deepak Chahar 27-3).

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