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How does KKR's win against Royals impact playoff qualification?

ESPNcricinfo logo ESPNcricinfo 6 days ago Srinath Sripath

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What does KKR's win mean for the other teams?

KKR are now in third place with 14 points after 13 games, and have a net run rate of -0.091. If they win their last game, they will be certain of a playoff spot.

Should KKR lose their final game - against Sunrisers in Hyderabad - their chances might suffer if Mumbai Indians and RCB win their last two games, because both those teams will get to 14 points and have a better net run rate than KKR.

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Kings XI Punjab, currently on 12 points, can still go through if they win one of their two remaining games and other results go their way, despite having the worst NRR (-0.518) in the league. If they win both games, they are assured of qualification regardless of other results.

Royals still have a chance of qualifying if they win their final league game, though their NRR is -0.403. They need to win their final game against RCB - a convincing margin will help - and hope that Mumbai don't win their last two games.

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Is Dinesh Karthik among IPL 2018's best finishers?

The short answer is, yes. Karthik has ticked three major boxes in chases this season: he plays very few dot balls (his 25.2% in successful chases puts him at #2, behind AB de Villiers), finds the boundary frequently (once every five balls), and most importantly, sees his side through (four unbeaten knocks in five successful chases). In a team with hitters like Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, it is their captain who has been the most consistent closer of chases.

Royals finally find a powerful opening combination?

Rajasthan Royals chopped and changed their opening combinations for a month before a rain-affected chase forced them to push Jos Buttler to open the batting. Since then, he has been on such a hot streak that he is now set to depart the IPL early, after being named in England's Test squad.

Against Kolkata Knight Riders, Rahul Tripathi joined Buttler for the first time, Royals' seventh different opening combination for the season. Tripathi had made his name as an opener last season for Rising Pune Supergiant, scoring 184 runs in the Powerplay at a strike rate of 157.6. According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, his runs were worth 75 more considering match context, among the best in IPL 2017. 

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Now, with Buttler set to leave, Tripathi may have been pushed up the order so he can play the role of the aggressor from the next game. Buttler and Tripathi put on 63 off just 4.5 overs, carting Knight Riders' bowlers for an IPL-record 10 consecutive boundaries at one point. They will end the season having opened together only once. More importantly, having taken so long to arrive at the right opening combination might end up costing Royals a playoff spot.

How did Royals lose their way from 63 for 0 in 4.4 overs?

Royals' opening partnership: 63 runs in 4.4 overs (Run rate 13.04)

Next 7 overs: 36 runs (Run rate 5.14)

Over the past five games, Buttler's fireworks have mostly been enough to carry Royals' batting, papering over the cracks in their middle order. On Tuesday, after Tripathi's dismissal, Ajinkya Rahane's arrival slowed things down significantly, as he struggled to rotate strike in the next over from Sunil Narine. Rahane ended up with 11 off 12 balls, a microcosm of a largely forgettable season for him.

Each of their top six, apart from Buttler and Sanju Samson, have scored at below-par rates and cost their team runs, as per Smart Stats. Their opening combinations might have cost Royals a few games in the first half of the season, but it is the lack of runs from the middle order which has hurt them the most.

A spinner to Narine in the first over?

K Gowtham had opened the bowling eight times for Rajasthan Royals before this game, keeping it tight (economy rate 7.44) with his wicket-to-wicket fingerspin. But he hasn't been a strike bowler by any means - two wickets in 48 balls. Rahane tossed the ball to his offspinner as usual, possibly to take on a left-hand opener in Sunil Narine. Narine is a marauding hitter of spin, though, and opening with Gowtham was a gamble. It did not work as Narine took Gowtham apart, scoring 21 runs off five balls.

Narine's relative weakness against pace is well known, and with the likes of Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes (who got him second ball) in their ranks, it seemed like Rahane had missed a trick. By the time Stokes got him in the second over, Narine had done his job.

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