The last semifinalist wasn’t decided until the last match of the league stage, with last year’s finalists providing the perfect symmetry. In the end, the Panthers paid the price for not building on their impressive start of three wins in their first three matches to crash out of the tournament despite being fortified by the arrival of R Vinay Kumar and Manish Pandey.
Provident chose chasing as a prudent course of option and B Akhil’s move paid off when the hesitant Panthers batsmen mustered just 113 for nine. Arjun Shetty kept the hegemony of the left-arm spinners in the competition with figures of four for 12 from his four overs, and his batsmen then completed the formalities, Sunil Kumar Jain the stand-out performer with an unbeaten 51 (47b, 5x4) as Provident raced to 115 for three in 16.4 overs.
The lion-hearted Vinay provided the Panthers some hope early on by winkling out openers MK Manjunath and Thilak Naidu, both on the cut, in the third over of the chase. But the experienced Amit Verma (34, 35b, 6x4) and Jain clinically went about collecting runs once Vinay went off the attack, adding 82 off 71 deliveries. Vinay returned to account for Verma too, but he was fighting a lone battle as Jain and Aniruddha Joshi easily pushed provident past the line.
In the evening, the Panthers didn’t get any momentum worth the name, nor were there any meaningful partnerships. Only the normally free-scoring Pandey (19, 12b, 1x6) was his normal self, but he lasted too briefly to make any impression.
Shetty was the most outstanding of the Provident bowlers but skipper Anand Katti was only marginally behind. Wicket-keeper Vinayak Uthappa (27) waged a lone battle for the Panthers, but with just 113 on the board, it was always a question of when rather than whether as Provident became the only semifinalist of last year to pull off an encore.