Four teams battling it for one seat in the play off

Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2018 (18:15 IST)
Kolkata: Sunrisers Hyderabad's continuing defence of small totals, Kings XI 
Punjab's untimely issues, and Rishabh Pant's astonishing knock feature in this week's 
At the business end of the Indian Premier League 2018, there's plenty happening. As 
of Monday, two teams have been confirmed for the play-offs ? Sunrisers Hyderabad and 
Chennai Super Kings ? but as many as five teams stand a chance to make the remaining 
two spots.   
Hyderabad have forged a reputation for defending totals this season. Their most 
eye-catching feat was the 31-run win over Indians, in which they defended 118 
after bundling out the reigning champions for 87. They have since defended 133 against 
Kings XI and 152 against Royals, and pulled off a similar feat against 
last week.
 At 60/1 after seven overs, Bangalore seemed set to comfortably chase the 147-run 
target, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul's miserly overs at the death ensured 
Bangalore were five runs short. It was a masterclass in death bowling, as Hyderabad 
sealed their spot in the final four.
 Five consecutive half-centuries. That Rajasthan Royals are in with a realistic chance of 
making it to the play-offs is largely down to Buttler's supreme form. He ended the previous 
week with a 39-ball 51 against Kings XI Punjab in Indore, but little did we know that would 
be the smallest score in a run of fifties.
He had a 58-ball 82 against the same opposition in Jaipur, before shredding the Chennai 
Super Kings bowlers in a 60-ball 95 not outthree days later to power the side to a fine win. 
Then, on Sunday 13 May, there was an even better 53-ball 94 not out against Mumbai 
Indians to lift Rajasthan to fifth spot, level on points with fourth-placed Knight Riders.
If the Englishman keeps this form going, Rajasthan can start prepping for the play-offs.
 Punjab were the surprise package when the tournament started, with KL Rahul in 
impeccable form and Chris Gayle joining him with a point to prove. However, having ended 
April with a run of four consecutive wins, Punjab have stuttered in May ? they have won just 
one of their last five matches.
Against Rajasthan this week, they struggled to chase 159, succumbing to a 15-run win. 
They then allowed Kolkata to post a mammoth 245/6 on Saturday, before falling short by 
31 runs. From being one of the favourites to claim a play-offs spot, this run of form has quite 
drastically upset Punjab's hopes.
The final week of league action in IPL 2018 couldn't be more tantalising. Punjab, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Mumbai and Bangalore all stand a chance to make the final four, but the favourites 
are the first three. 
 All of Punjab, Kolkata and Rajasthan are tied on 12 points, with Punjab shading the other 
two on net run-rate. Mumbai and Bangalore, meanwhile, are less likely to make the playoffs, 
owing to the fact they are no longer masters of their own fate, and they have to hope other 
results go their way.
The clash between Kolkata and Rajasthan on Tuesday could be pivotal, as will Punjab's 
clashes against Mumbai and Bangalore. There is no favourite, and there is just one certainty: 
there's plenty to play for.
Rishabh Pant's 63-ball 128 against Hyderabad takes the cake, even though Delhi ended 
up losing the match quite comprehensively by the end of it. Pant has been in terrific form 
this tournament ? he currently leads the run charts ? and this knock comprised an 
eye-catching 15 fours and seven sixes. 
He ensured the usually impressive duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul ended 
with poor figures of 1/51 and 0/48 respectively. That Delhi still only managed to post 187/5 
and lost by nine wickets was astonishing.
Bangalore required 19 runs from the last two overs, and with Colin de Grandhomme and Mandeep Singh in the middle, Virat Kohli and co. would have been confident of a 
much-needed victory. 
However, the penultimate over sent down by Kaul was a tutorial in death bowling ? he 
sent down yorkers, mixed up his pace, and even found a hint of reverse swing as he gave 
away just seven runs in the over. It meant Bhuvneshwar had 12 to defend in the final over, 
and Hyderabad won by five runs.(UNI)