The league stage of IPL 2023 finally concluded on Sunday with the last match between Gujarat Titans and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The four teams that have already qualified for the playoffs are the Titans, Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants and Mumbai Indians.
In the first Saturday game, Chennai Super Kings confirmed their playoff berth by defeating Delhi Capitals by a massive margin of 77 runs. CSK posted a huge total of 223/3, riding on fine knocks of 87 and 79 from Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad, respectively. Delhi never got going in the chase and lost their first four wickets for just 75 runs. Skipper David Warner waged a lone battle from one end, making his way to 86 off just 58 deliveries. But that only took Delhi to a total of 146/9, as there was no support from the other batters.
The Kolkata Knight Riders took on Lucknow Super Giants in the second game of Saturday; it turned out to be a thrilling encounter in front of a packed Eden Gardens crowd with the home team losing by just one run. Rinku Singh played a memorable knock again as he smashed an unbeaten 67 off just 33 deliveries, but he couldn’t drag his team over the line. Earlier, it was Nicholas Pooran’s fifty that took Lucknow to a competitive total of 176/8.
Sunday produced some high-octane clashes as well. In the first match of the day, Cameron Green’s century helped Mumbai Indians in chasing down a target of 201 comfortably against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Skipper Rohit Sharma also played an excellent hand of 56 off just 37 balls, whereas SRH batters like Mayank Agarwal and Vivrant Sharma were shining in the match earlier with brilliant knocks of 83 and 69, respectively.
We will witness two more quality knocks in the second game on Sunday as Virat Kohli scored an impressive century to take Royal Challengers Bangalore to a total of 197/5. However, it was bettered by Shubman Gill, who smashed an unbeaten 104 off just 52 deliveries to help the Titans chase down 198 with six wickets and five deliveries to spare. Apart from him, Vijay Shankar also played a crucial hand of 53, and was involved in 123-run stand for the second wicket with Gill. The Titans’ win officially knocked RCB out of the playoff.
May 23: Qualifier 1: Chennai Super Kings vs Gujarat Titans
It will be a clash between the defending champions Gujarat Titans and the four-time winners Chennai Super Kings. Both teams have delivered a strong performance this season, and will be eager to make their way into the final with a win in this game.
The Titans have a formidable batting and bowling unit, both of which have been in excellent form and pace throughout the season. Batters like Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha, and Vijay Shankar have played some memorable knocks throughout, whereas bowlers like Mohammed Shami, Rashid Khan, and Noor Ahmad have tormented teams with their bamboozling bowling. Things might be different for them in this game as they will be playing at CSK’s den and the Super Kings are a force to reckon with at Chepauk.
The Titans have to bat outstandingly to handle CSK’s spin trio of Maheesh Theekshana, Ravindra Jadeja, and Moeen Ali. Matheesha Pathirana has also emerged as a dependable death bowling option for CSK, and hence, the Gujarat batters have to do well to tackle them. Moreover, CSK have several in-form and quality batters as well, who can render the Titans bowlers totally ineffective. Considering form, quality, and home advantage, CSK look likely to win, whereas the Titans may need to fight it out in the Qualifier Two to book a berth in the final.
May 24: Eliminator: Lucknow Super Giants vs Mumbai Indians
In this contest between the Super Giants and the Mumbai Indians, Lucknow look like the favourites as the conditions at Chepauk will suit their strength. Considering the nature of the track, Lucknow are expected to employ three spinners in Ravi Bishnoi, Krunal Pandya, and Amit Mishra for the match. Now, the Mumbai Indians have some batters, like Ishan Kishan and Rohit Sharma, with big issues against spin, and that doesn’t hold them in good stead going into this clash.
The Super Giants and Mumbai have already met once this season, and the former won by five runs. Lucknow can draw confidence from that encounter, and that will give them a moral boost. Although the Mumbai batters have been in perfect form, there is a high chance of them struggling against the LSG spinners. That makes Lucknow the favourites.