Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians have the easiest qualification scenarios - win the game at hand. © BCCI

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians have the easiest qualification scenarios – win the game at hand. © BCCI

As has been the case in the past ten seasons, in 2018 too, the Indian Premier League heads into its final weekend of league matches with playoff spots still up for grabs, and even the top two not decided. There are only three things certain as of now: that Sunrisers Hyderabad will finish in the top two, a spot that they had sealed a while ago, and that Delhi Daredevils will end up with the wooden spoon.

The third certainty is that Chennai Super Kings will be in the playoffs, but at what position is still not clear. Thus as things stand, each of Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab are in the fray for the remaining two qualifying spots. Of these five, Kolkata have a shot at finishing in the top two, and displacing Chennai.

The points table as it stands now:

Teams

Matches

Won

Lost

Points

NRR

SRH

13

9

4

18

0.319

CSK

13

8

5

16

0.220

KKR

13

7

6

14

-0.091

MI

13

6

7

12

0.384

RCB

13

6

7

12

0.264

RR

13

6

7

12

-0.403

KXIP

13

6

7

12

-0.490

DD

13

4

9

8

-0.288

The schedule of remaining matches:

MAY 19

RR v RCB in Jaipur at 4.00pm

SRH v KKR in Hyderabad at 8.00pm

MAY 20

DD v MI in Delhi at 4.00pm

CSK v KXIP in Pune at 8.00pm

The end of the league stage could even see four teams on 14 points if Hyderabad beat Kolkata, Punjab beat Chennai and Mumbai beat Delhi. That will put Kolkata, Punjab, Mumbai and the winner of the Bangalore-Rajasthan clash on 14 points, and only two of those four will progress.

All of these possibilities – and only four matches to go. Here’s what each of the teams in the fray need to do, and hope for:

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Whether they win or lose, they will finish in the top two.

For SRH fans: Hope that there are no niggles, and everyone finds form. But otherwise, sit back and relax.

Chennai Super Kings

They have a 75% chance of finishing in the top two on points alone. The only way they will not end up there on points is if both of these things happen: they lose their match and Kolkata win theirs, which would tie Chennai and Kolkata on 16 points.

Even then, Chennai have a superior net run-rate,+0.220 to -0.091, and the winning margins would have to be sufficiently big in either match for Kolkata to overcome that. To illustrate, before Chennai’s loss against Delhi by a sizeable 34 runs, their net run-rate was +0.382. Kolkata can overcome the current differential if they win their match by 40 runs and Chennai also lose by 40 runs. Possible, but unlikely, and Chennai have one foot in the top two. Their advantage also is that they will be playing last, so they will know exactly the margin they need to cover for, in case Kolkata win their match. If Kolkata lose, then Chennai will finish in the top two regardless.

For CSK fans: Ideally win the match, but failing that, hope that the defeat is a narrow one.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The goal for Kolkata is simple – win and assure themselves of a playoff spot. A top two finish is not really in their control, unless they can pull off a massive victory against Hyderabad and hope for a Chennai implosion.

Kolkata can get through even if they lose, but then they will have to hope for other results to go their way. They can get through with 14 points if Chennai beat Punjab and Delhi beat Mumbai, leaving both Mumbai and Punjab on 12 points and ensuring that only the winner of Bangalore v Rajasthan joins Kolkata on 14 points.

There are also several scenarios in which there will be a logjam on 14 points, but those will involve Mumbai and Bangalore too, and both of them have superior net run-rates to Kolkata.

For KKR fans: Win the match by a big margin and hope that Chennai lose by a big margin.

Mumbai Indians

It’s as simple as can be for Mumbai. Win and go through. Lose and end their title defence.

Because their net run-rate is the best in the competition, they won’t need to worry about others joining them on 14 points, and victory will assure them of a playoff spot.

For MI fans: Win the match. The margin doesn’t matter.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Bangalore are in a similar position to Mumbai. They will also win and likely go through, but a loss will end yet another campaign in heartbreak. Amongst the other teams that can potentially finish on 14 points, Bangalore have a much better net run-rate than either Punjab or Kolkata, so a simple victory should suffice, even if more than two teams are tied on 14. The only issue will be if both Bangalore and Mumbai are tied on 14 and fighting for the last spot, because Mumbai’s net run-rate is much better.

For RCB fans: Win the match. And do it by as big a margin as possible to jump above Mumbai in net run-rate, in case it comes down to both of these sides for the last spot. Ideally, hope that one of Mumbai or Kolkata lose their last match.

Rajasthan Royals

Rajasthan have a terrible net run-rate so even if they win, they are likely to need other results to go their way. The realistic way for Rajasthan to qualify would be to have more points than Bangalore and Mumbai, so they will need Delhi to beat Mumbai. Rajasthan’s net run-rate is better than Punjab’s, so they could go through even if Punjab win, provided it’s a narrow victory.

If they lose to Bangalore though, Rajasthan’s campaign will end.

For RR fans: Win the match. And hope Delhi beat Mumbai, and Chennai beat Punjab.

Kings XI Punjab

The only thing Punjab have going for them right now is that they play last, so they will at least know what margin they need to win by. But since they have the worst net run-rate among the contenders, merely winning won’t be enough.

They can’t realistically beat Mumbai and Bangalore’s net run-rates, so they need both of those teams to lose. Rajasthan’s net run-rate is still within grasp, but only if Punjab win handsomely enough. So while they will need Bangalore to lose to Rajasthan, the narrower the margin, the better for Punjab.

For KXIP fans: Win the match by a big margin, and hope that Delhi beat Mumbai, and Rajasthan beat Bangalore by a very narrow margin.

Delhi Daredevils

All their fans can hope for is that the team continues to give its younger players a go for the final league match, and that it helps shape a better 2019 season.