Suraj shines as Panthers roar

Suraj shines as Panthers roar

Last year’s finalists Belagaavi Panthers got off to a winning start, by eight wickets, but until man of the match Suraj Sampath stepped up the scoring rate with crisp and clean hitting towards the back end of the innings, the game moved at a snail’s pace, drawing more yawns than runs in a thinly-attended match.

After restricting Malnad Gladiators to a modest 110 for six in 20 overs, Panthers lost skipper J Arun Kumar in the first over and struggled to keep pace with the run rate but eventually managed to cross the line fairly comfortably, Suraj chalking out a well-calculated half-century.

The Social Cricketers’ batsman, who finished the proceedings in style with a neatly executed six over long-on off K Gowtham, remained unbeaten on 60 (55b, 5x4, 1x6) while S Vinod was undefeated on 29 (22b, 3x4) in an unseparated 37-ball partnership of 59. Gladiators, whose fielding was well below par, will rue letting Suraj off when the batsman was only eight.

Panthers gathered pace once Vinod walked in after the dismissal of Shyam Ponnappa, who raised 52 for the second wicket with Suraj.

The diminutive batsman brought much-needed urgency to the innings, picking up the odd boundary or two and showing tremendous alacrity while running between the wickets.
Earlier, Gladiators failed to get off the blocks against a Panthers’ attack more disciplined than destructive after being put in. Former Karnataka Ranji paceman S Dhananjay and Ronith More were miserly and scoring became harder once the spinners came on. B Naveen and Zeeshan Ali Syed conceded just 33 runs between them in eight overs.
Skipper Ganesh Satish did promise some fireworks but the stylish opener, dropped by Vinayak Uthappa, failed make the most of the reprieve. Uthappa made up by stumping Ganesh off Ramling Patil in the next over.

It wasn’t any different with other batsmen, who found it difficult to force the pace against the pink ball. As admitted by both the skippers later, the batsmen need to make more adjustments while facing the harder pink ball. The damp pitch didn’t help Gladiators’ cause either.

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