IPL race for semis wide open ahead of KZN’s finale

2009-05-20 00:00

THE road has, at times, been rather trying, but finally one can make enough sense of the IPL table to say the race truly is on.

The Bangalore Royal Challengers, led by a dashing Jacques Kallis, threw their hat squarely into a ring that is rapidly overfilling.

Aside from the almost comical Kolkata Knight Riders and the confused Mumbai Indians, the other five sides in the competition all have a chance to join the pace-setting Delhi Daredevils in this weekend’s semifinals.

After over 50 matches, it all comes down to each sides final round-robin ties.

The defending champions, Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals, simply must defeat the Knight Riders in today’s early game at Kingsmead to have any chance of defending their crown.

The second clash, between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kings XI Punjab is equally important.

If the Punjab outfit prevails, they will also maintain their interests in the final four.

The Super Kings, currently second, should be safe, but a win will surely give them momentum heading into the home straight.

Tomorrow’s matches are equally intriguing, though the Daredevils’ clash with Mumbai is the only “dead rubber”, with the Delhi boys certain of top spot and Mumbai out of reach of the semis.

The final clash between Bangalore and Adam Gilchrist’s Deccan Chargers has now assumed quarter-final status, with the loser almost certainly packing their bags.

If all that makes any sense to you it is a small miracle, but that is exactly what the second edition of the IPL has been.

That it was staged on such short notice was impressive enough.

The fact that it has just about held locals’ imaginations into the chill of winter, despite the Super 14 and other delights on the small screen, is testimony to the array of stars on display.

Today marks Kingsmead’s final fling with the dancing girls, the blaring music and the fireworks, on and off the field.

Afforded the most matches out of all the cities, Durban has done itself proud, with excellent attendances, even in the middle of the day.

One wonders just how many “sick” notes have been hastily arranged to catch the action, and they will no doubt be in use today for the final show.

The Royals will look to Warne again, but a hearty contribution from the unusually erratic Graeme Smith would be most welcome.

A big score could be crucial for the Royals, as their net run-rate is in the red at the moment, and semifinal spots could be decided on such matters.

The Knight Riders will simply be looking to end as they started, with a win.

The less mentioned about their horror show in the middle the better.

In the second clash, the Super Kings will be looking to bounce back from their shock loss to the Knight Riders. They will welcome back the big, booming bat of Matthew Hayden, as they look to cement their semi spot.

The Kings XI Punjab have no option but to win.

Intriguingly, they have opted to bench Yusuf Abdulla since the return of Brett Lee.

The Dundee Express topped the wicket charts not so long ago, and will surely be desperate for a game on his home patch.

All in all, it promises to be quite a finale at Kingsmead.

If you are not yet out of excuses to skip work, get down to the ground to wave goodbye to the IPl roadshow.

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