Virat Kohli RCB
RCB, led by Virat Kohli, are the team to beat in the IPL 2016 playoffs. Pictured: Kohli fields during an IPL 2016 match against KKR, May 16, 2016.IANS

Here we are then, four teams remain, three of them looking for their first title, and the other, another one to add to their kitty. After a crazy, sometimes-a-little-drab, but mostly entertaining 56 matches, IPL 2016 is on its way to the playoffs. Gujarat Lions, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders are the teams that will vie for that wonderfully-glinting trophy, with RCB, led by Virat Kohli's sumptuous pyrotechnics, the favourites to land their first IPL title.

It is not the fact that they have won four in a row that makes them the favourites, but the manner in which those wins have come. In each of the matches, while staring down at elimination, RCB have not just beaten their opponents, they have annihilated them.

It all began with the mauling of the Gujarat Lions, when Kohli and AB De Villiers put on a world record T20 partnership, before KKR were handed a proper beating at their own ground. The Kings XI Punjab were no match for RCB, with the Delhi Daredevils, despite needing a win themselves to make it to the final four, also unable to put a dent in Kohli's team.

The calm and ease with which RCB sealed a top-two spot was a thing of beauty, and imagine how the Gujarat Lions will be feeling heading into Qualifier 1 in Bengaluru on Tuesday. The last time these two teams met at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, RCB, after seemingly losing a vital toss, slammed their way to 248/3 in their 20 overs, with Kohli and AB De Villiers scoring ridiculous hundreds.

Now, for this not-do-or-die qualifier, the same pitch awaits the Gujarat Lions, and Suresh Raina, who would have been thanking his lucky stars at being forced to miss that match, will probably not know what to do at the toss – bat first, and hope Kohli fails in a chase, or bowl first, and pray the bowlers stop Kohli, De Villiers and Chris Gayle from going six-crazy.

The good thing for the Gujarat Lions, and RCB, is that they will have another opportunity to reach the final, even if they lose Qualifier 1. No such luxury exists for the Sunrisers Hyderabad and KKR.

These two teams finished third and fourth in the IPL 2016 points table, and as a result, they go head to head in the Eliminator. The Feroz Shah Kotla has thrown up a few nail-biters already in IPL 2016, and considering what is at stake, this could end up being a really close one too.

KKR will be the confident team going into this match, with Gautam Gambhir's men easily beating SRH in their final league match on Sunday. Put into bat, KKR posted a solid total at the Eden Gardens, before their spinners did the trick, to keep the Sunrisers from getting close to the target.

With the slower bowlers likely to come into their own again in Delhi, KKR will be the favourites against David Warner's men, who which have lost three of their last four matches.

IPL 2016 playoffs schedule:

Qualifier 1: Gujarat Lions (GL) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

Date: Tuesday, May 24.

Time: 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.

Eliminator: Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) vs Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).

Date: Wednesday, May 25.

Time: 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.

Qualifier 2: Loser of Qualifier 1 vs Winner of Eliminator.

Date: Friday, May 27.

Time: 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.

Final: Winner of Qualifier 1 vs Winner of Qualifier 2.

Date: Sunday, May 29.

Time: 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET).

Venue: Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.

TV listings: India: Sony Six, Sony Six HD, Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony Max. UK: Sky Sports. USA: ESPN. Canada: Sportsnet. Middle East and North Africa: OSN Sports Cricket. South Africa: SuperSport. International (Rest of the world): Cricketgateway (Online).

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