The last time the race to the Play-Offs was this tight was in 2020 when the four qualifiers were decided only after the last league match that season.
A similar script is being played out in IPL 2023 with the race to the Play-Offs spot going down to the wire, all thanks to inconsistent cricket by all teams, save top-placed Gujarat Titans.
And on Saturday, May 20, 2023, last season's finalists Lucknow Super Giants were in a must-win situation to book a spot in the Play-Offs. And they got there by the skin of their teeth!
Kolkata Knight Riders talisman Rinku Singh (67 off 33) nearly pulled out a win out of nowhere, the team falling short by just one run as LSG finished third on the points table with 17 points.
Put in to bat by Nitish Rana, LSG were doing themselves no favours by getting off to a torrid start, tottering at 73 for 5.
With Ayush Badoni and Nicholas Pooran their last recognised batting pair at the crease, LSG needed a miracle to get out of the rut and a miracle was served for all to see.
Pooran stepped on the gas from the word go as he hit Varun Chakravarthy for 15 runs in the very first over at the crease -- he hit 2 fours, a six and a single.
Pooran and Badoni kept the scoreboard ticking and ensured at least one boundary or six every over to ensure their foot was never off the pedal.
It was unwise of Nitish Rana to bowl leggie Suyash Sharma for just one over. Suyash was the impact sub, replacing Harshit Rana. Suyash was taken for 12 runs in his one over spell and with the wicket gripping he would have offered more to KKR's bowling.
But Nitish failed to read the situation and press on, only to allow Pooran and Badoni to rebuild. Pooran and Badoni hammered pacer Vaibhav Arora for 11 runs in the 17th over and bring up their 50 run stand.
The duo then took Sunil Narine to the cleaners, taking 14 runs off him in the 18th over while seeing the back of Badoni.
Pooran got to his 50 in the very next over with a six over sweeper cover. He then hit another maximum before being caught out for 58.
The partnership of 74 in 7.5 overs between Pooran and Badoni ensured they went past the 150 mark before a couple of lusty blows from K Gowtham in the final over took LSG to a par score of 176 for 8.
LSG needed quick wickets if they were to canter into the Play-Offs, but KKR's openers had other ideas.
Venkatesh Iyer and Jason Roy got off to a flyer -- in 5 overs they were 59 for no loss.
But once Iyer was dismissed in the 6th over, KKR kept falling off the rails. They lost momentum and their run-rate fell -- they scored just 23 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in five overs.
Spinners Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi and Krishappa Gowtham were miserly while each picked wickets at regular intervals to keep KKR in check.
Naveen-ul-Haq was also tidy until he was clobbered for 20 runs in the 19th over by Rinku before KKR fell short by one run.
Krunal rotated his bowlers well while quickies Naveen and Yash Thakur used the slower deliveries to good effect on a track that was holding up, and the ball not coming on to the bat easily.
Pooran and Badoni's stand and the fine spell of bowling from the spinners in the middle overs helped choke the runs and LSG, wearing Kolkata football giants Mohun Bagan's red and gold colours, going home triumphant, could go down as one of the ironic moments in IPL 2023.