Cricket - High-priced Cummins, Starc face off as IPL enters playoffs


Sunrisers Hyderabad team members gestures towards the crowd after their team won the match against Punjab Kings in Indian Premier League cricket tournament in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, May19, 2024. - AP

AHMEDABAD, India (AFP): The two highest-priced players in the IPL -- Australia teammates Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc -- will go head-to-head Tuesday for a place in the final as the cash-rich Twenty20 league enters the playoffs.

Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper Cummins cost US$2.5 million at auction, a record which stood briefly until Kolkata Knight Riders then paid US$2.98 million for fast bowler Starc.

Former champions Hyderabad finished second after a four-wicket win over Punjab Kings on Sunday with Kolkata topping the table -- setting up the clash at the world's biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad where the winners will reach Sunday's final.

The losers will get a second chance on Friday against either the third-placed Rajasthan Royals or Royal Challengers Bengaluru, who finished fourth. They play in an eliminator on Wednesday.

The final will be followed just six days later by the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States. Cummins last year led Australia to the 50-over World Cup when they beat India in the final, also at Ahmedabad.

"We've had a lot of fun and played some really great cricket," Cummins said of his side that twice broke the IPL scoring record this season, with innings of 277 and 287.

"It's satisfying and exciting" to be in the play-offs, he said. "A few of these guys haven't played in (IPL) finals before -- I haven't played in finals before."

- Into the groove -

Kolkata have been the team to beat with 20 points from 14 matches and were the first of the 10 IPL teams to clinch a playoff place.

They hit 272-7 against Delhi Capitals this season, the third highest innings in IPL history behind Hyderabad's two huge totals.

Starc had a quiet start, but began to justify his price tag with match-winning figures of 3-38 against Lucknow Super Giants last month.

He then took 4-33 against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium earlier this month, getting into the groove ahead of the World Cup.

He has taken 12 wickets in 12 matches but has been expensive, with an economy rate of more than 11 per over on the batting-friendly pitches that have dominated the 2024 season.

Cummins has 15 wickets in 13 games but it is his captaincy that has stood out with his rotation of bowlers key in Hyderabad winning eight out of 14 matches.

His lower-order batting -- Cummins scored an IPL fifty in 14 balls in 2022 for Kolkata -- has also come in handy with a highest of 35 not out.

Cummins has fellow Australian Travis Head for company in Hyderabad.

The attacking opener has scored 533 runs, with a century and four fifties, to stand third in the batting chart led by Bengaluru's Virat Kohli on 708.

Kohli and Bengaluru reached the playoffs after beating Chennai Super Kings in a dramatic final league match at the weekend to keep their hopes alive of a first IPL title. - AFP

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Cricket , IPL , Playoffs , Begins , Sunrisers , Great Form

   

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