Semis race goes down to the wire
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It's all down to the wire for three semi-final places in the lucrative Indian Premier League which will come to an end with the "grand" finale at the Wanderers on Sunday.
But before that, five teams - Chennai Super Kings, Deccan Chargers, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Bangalore Royal Challengers - are still in the running for three semi-final places.

The Delhi Daredevils have secured their semi-final place with 18 points from nine wins in 12 starts. They cannot be caught or overtaken as the sides fight for second, third and fourth places on the final round robin table.

"It's the tightest race for semi-final places in two seasons," said Lalit Modi, chairman and commissioner of the IPL. Last year the semi-finalists were identified by the end of the third or fourth week of the tournament.

"But this time the competition has been amazingly fought throughout since it began on April 18 at Newlands in Cape Town."

Just when they thought their semi-final spot was safely secured the Chennai Super Kings suffered a shock defeat against the Kolkata Knight Riders at SuperSport Park on Monday night.

Now their game at Kingsmead on Thursday becomes vitally important as they will need to win their match against the Kings XI Punjab to secure their second place on the table or their fate could come down to run-rate.

Chennai's seven-wicket defeat has brought alive the hopes of defending champions the Rajasthan Royals and the Bangalore Royal Challengers to qualify for the semi-finals as well.

Chennai are second with 15 points while the Deccan Chargers, who also blew a good chance of securing their last-four spot after a number of inconsistent performances, are third with 14 points while the Kings XI Punjab, who have virtually come back from the dead, are fourth, also on 14 points.

Lurking in fifth place are Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals (13) and the Bangalore outfit, who have two games left in their programme and have 12 points.

The Daredevils will meet the Bangalore Royals Challengers at the Wanderers on Tuesday at 4.30pm and if Anil Kumble's side topples the Delhi team they will be in the mix for a semi-final place.

They'll have 14 points with a game to play against the Deccan Chargers on Thursday at SuperSport Park.

And if they make it two-in-a-row, then the Bangalore side will jump to 16 points.

Hence tomorrow's double-header at Kingsmead is vital not only for the Super Kings but also the Rajasthan Royals and the Kings XI Punjab.

The Super Kings under Mahendra Singh Dhoni will once again bank on the big-hitting Matthew Hayden to carry their semi-final hopes. Fortunately for them Partiv Patel and Suresh Raina have struck form.

The Kings XI also have some in-form players such as Yuvraj Singh, who bagged his second hat-trick at the weekend, and Brett Lee, who joined the side recently, who make their attack look formidable. In the earlier game the Knight Riders will come up against Warne's side, who will be seeking two points.

The Kolkata side have nothing to lose - they are out of the semi-final race - and could pose a serious threat to the Royals.