SBH crowned champions

Hyderabad team posts one-wicket win over Air India in summit tie

Needing 283 for victory, SBH went through several twists during their chase, and the equation finally boiled down to seven runs from the last over. Man of the match T Pawan Kumar (33 n.o., 19b, 4x4, 2x6) smashed Dhawal Kulkarni, who went through horrors on the day, high and long into the long-on stands to seal the victory with four balls to spare.

Mohammad Kaif, who led AI in the absence of injured skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar, made a resolute 88 (127b, 6x4), and Robin Uthappa a fluent 56 (70b, 6x4) as the former champions posted 282 for nine after being put in. Naman Ojha, who came in for Kanitkar, exploited the reprieve he received on five -- leg-spinner Akash Bhandari grassed him off his own bowling -- to make a rapidfire 48 (36b, 5x4, 3x6) and give late impetus to the AI innings as they rattled up 65 runs in the batting Power Play.

The formidable nature of the target made it mandatory for SBH to get off the blocks quickly, and they did just that. SBH began their title quest in an explosive fashion with openers T Suman (57, 36b, 10x4, 1x6) and Daniel Manohar, who grabbed three vital Air India wickets, adding 70 in just 7.5 overs. Suman started the carnage, carting Kulkarni for 13 runs in the first over, and the run-flow continued till the right-hander got out in the 13th over.

By no means was it an innings of mere brute power. The Hyderabadi combined brawn and flair splendidly, finding gaps with laser-guided precision. Suman played a rare false stroke, a timid attempt to work offie Ajit Chandela to the on-side, and it resulted in his downfall. An extended period of lull followed his dismissal as SBH struggled to break free from the firm clutches of Chandela, Pawan Negi and Rajat Bhatia.

The SBH middle-order, consisting of Anoop Pai, B Sumanth and Anirudh Singh, never managed to force the pace in the middle overs as the run-rate dipped under five. Sumanth and Anirudh were involved in a 62-run alliance for the fourth wicket, but they consumed 94 balls as the asking rate neeared seven.

The right-handed duo fell in the space of four balls as SBH slipped to 158 for four, and at that juncture, they needed 125 in 17.4 overs. Ahmed Quadri in the company of Bhandari instilled new life into their chase, realising 77 off 65 balls for the sixth-wicket partnership.

Quadri punished left-arm spinner Negi in the 37th over, sending him to the ropes three times, and thereafter SBH managed to unearth big overs in succession.

Just when it seemed as if SBH would canter home, left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan returned to jettison Quadri and Bhandari in the 44th over. SBH took the batting Power Play from the 45th over, and used the fielding restrictions cleverly to milk 39 runs losing two wickets to close in on a win. Pawan, who grabbed four AI wickets, brought victory and the title with one big blow.

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