Punjab Kings
Mohammed Shami of the Punjab Kings celebrates the wicket of David Warner of the Sunrisers Hyderabad during the IPL match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on September 25, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

The Punjab Kings love cliffhangers. After contriving to lose against the Rajasthan Royals in a last-over finish, the KL Rahul-led side beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by the skin of their teeth on Sunday. It was a last-gasp win. One shot could have deprived them of full points. But then that’s cricket, T20 cricket.

Well, Punjab have now jumped to fifth place in the eight-team points table and are level on eight points with the fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders, who have a match in hand. The Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals too have eight points from nine games, one less than Punjab. So we have four teams on eight points: Punjab, Kolkata, Mumbai and Rajasthan.

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It’s still early to discuss the playoff spots, although the Delhi Capitals and the Chennai Super Kings seemed to have confirmed their berths. Hyderabad, with two points from nines games that included eight losses, are out of the reckoning.

It means we have five teams jostling for two places in the knockout stage. That adds spice to the rest of the games. The outcome of each of the remaining matches will have a considerable bearing on the qualification for the playoffs. So predictions can be quite tricky, but I feel that Punjab won’t make it. Rajasthan too.

Punjab’s victory on Sunday lacked the authority of champions. Never mind the sticky Sharjah wicket; a total of 125 runs doesn’t instil confidence. More so since the team were hacked down by one of the less potent bowling sides. True Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jason Holder and Rashid Khan are top class bowlers, but the attack is not in the league of the Mumbai Indians, the Delhi Capitals or the Chennai Super Kings.

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Even the Punjab bowling has been hardly inspiring, despite the cutting edge provided by Mohammed Shami. This is not to belittle the efforts of Arshdeep Singh, Ravi Bishnoi and Harpreet Brar. They bowled well, particularly the slog overs. But it is discomforting to see Hyderabad get very close even after losing David Warner and captain Kane Williamson early. Punjab may not be as lucky when they clash with other teams.

As for Rajasthan, they were never in the race against Delhi. True, they did well to restrict Delhi to 154, but a batting that mainly revolves around skipper Sanju Samson can’t go too far into the tournament. At best, they can undermine the efforts of some fancied teams. They don’t have the quality to go beyond that.

So I won’t be surprised if Punjab and Rajasthan fall by the wayside in the scramble for the playoffs.