Dubai: Four-time kings and defending champions Mumbai Indians are the only side having the luxury of playing their last two Indian Premier League group games safe in the knowledge they are already qualified for the play-offs as the last of the double-headers come around this weekend.
Mumbai will take on third-placed Delhi Capitals in Dubai at 2pm on Saturday and then Royal Challengers Bangalore will be up against the steadily improving Sunrisers Hyderabad from 6pm at Sharjah Stadium.
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Sitting pretty at the top of the table, Mumbai are the only team who can be mathematically assured of a spot in the play-offs as they head the standings with 16 points and two games in hand.
Delhi, on the other hand, need to seriously look at getting the two points they need to book their place and put their house back in order. The Capitals have lost all form after the initial euphoria of raking in those early points.
The Capitals’ last win came against the already out-of-contention Chennai Super Kings on October 17 when they won by five wickets with a ball to spare. But after that, they have fallen to three straight defeats — a five-wicket loss against Kings XI Punjab, a 59-run thrashing from the Kolkata Knight Riders followed by another batting display that led to them falling to a huge 88-run defeat against Hyderabad.
No doubt, Delhi have managed to cling to one of the top four spots despite those three losses. But, they will need to seriously add at least a couple of more points to fully ensure their right for the play-offs while holding of Punjab, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
Equally desperate for a win will be Bangalore as they take on Hyderabad, who have sort of become the late bloomers in this year’s IPL.
Having started off slowly, the David Warner-led Sunrisers have threatened the rest of the field with their steady and consistent displays in the second half of the competition.
Though presently sitting in sixth place, the Sunrisers have a much better net run-rate compared to all other teams, except Mumbai. So, two more wins and four points would take them to 14, and that could see off Kolkata and Punjab.
Looking like one of the best sides in the competition, the Sunrisers had just three wins from their first seven matches. They began with two successive losses — against RCB and KKR — only to bounce back with a couple of wins against Delhi and Chennai. They lost another two matches — against Mumbai and Rajasthan Royals — but did well with two points against Punjab to wrap up the first half of the competition.
It is in the second half that the Sunrisers have displayed their presence as a compact team while adding another two wins in the last five matches. Both their wins were amplified by the fact that the Sunrisers can be a side capable of challenging the best teams this year.
Their first was an eight-wicket thrashing of Rajasthan and this was followed by that thumping of Delhi — a match that witnessed the Sunrisers reach a huge total of 219-2 in their allotted overs and then bowl out the Capitals for just 131 in 19 overs.
The Sunrisers could well have had three wins in the second part of the competition, if it wasn’t for a Super Over loss against Kolkata.
The Virat Kohli-led RCB will still be looking at another two points against such a well-rounded team. The Bengaluru side are second with 14 points — the same as Delhi but with a much better net run-rate.
Besides that, they will also be aware of what exactly they need to do against a side like the Sunrisers as they continue their quest for a first-ever IPL crown.