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Cummins and Starc to face off in IPL playoffs

Australia teammates Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, the two highest-priced players in the Indian Premier League (IPL), will face off on Tuesday for a spot in the final as the lucrative Twenty20 league enters its playoff stage.

Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Cummins was bought for a record $2.5 million at the auction, a short-lived record until Kolkata Knight Riders splurged $2.98 million on fast bowler Starc.

Former champions Hyderabad secured second place after a four-wicket win over Punjab Kings on Sunday, while Kolkata topped the table. This set up the much-anticipated clash at the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, where the winners will advance to Sunday’s final.

The losers will have a second chance to reach the final on Friday against either the third-placed Rajasthan Royals or the fourth-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore, who will face off in an eliminator on Wednesday.

The IPL final will be followed by the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States just six days later. Cummins, who led Australia to victory in the 50-over World Cup last year against India in Ahmedabad, is looking forward to the playoffs. “We’ve had a lot of fun and played some really great cricket,” he said. “It’s satisfying and exciting to be in the playoffs. A few of these guys haven’t played in (IPL) finals before — I haven’t played in finals before.”

Kolkata have been the dominant team this season, amassing 20 points from 14 matches to become the first of the 10 IPL teams to secure a playoff spot. They posted a massive 272-7 against Delhi Capitals, the third highest innings in IPL history, behind Hyderabad’s record totals of 277 and 287.

Starc, after a slow start, began to justify his price with match-winning figures of 3-38 against Lucknow Super Giants last month and 4-33 against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium earlier this month. He has taken 12 wickets in 12 matches, though his economy rate has been over 11 per over on the batting-friendly pitches this season.

Cummins, with 15 wickets in 13 games, has been notable for his effective captaincy, particularly in his strategic rotation of bowlers, which has been pivotal in Hyderabad’s success. His lower-order batting has also been an asset, with a top score of 35 not out.

Hyderabad’s squad also features fellow Australian Travis Head, who has scored 533 runs, including a century and four fifties, making him the third highest run-scorer this season, behind Bangalore’s Virat Kohli, who leads with 708 runs.

Kohli and Bangalore secured their playoff spot after a dramatic victory over Chennai Super Kings in the final league match of the weekend, keeping alive their hopes of claiming their first IPL title.

(Source: AFP)

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