Mushtaq Ali: Karnataka defend title in thriller

Cricket syed mushtaq ali trophy

Karnataka players celebrate with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy after emerging champions in Surat on Sunday. (Photo credit: BCCI Media)

The clash of the Southern giants lived up to its billing with Karnataka pulling off a one-run victory over arch-rivals Tamil Nadu to defend their Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy in a nerve-racking summit clash at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium here on Sunday. 

Karnataka’s triumph meant that they became the first side in the history of the tournament to win the title for two consecutive times. However, unlike the Vijay Hazare Trophy title clash, which Karnataka ran away with the crown against the same opponents, the final here was an edge-of-the-seat thriller with Karnataka’s moment of joy coming only after the final ball of the contest. 

Manish Pandey, set two tie the knot on Monday in Mumbai, was the epitome of commitment as the skipper essayed a brilliant unbeaten 60 against a disciplined Tamil Nadu attack to take Karnataka to a competitive 180/5 in 20 overs.

Tamil Nadu brought the game down to the wire with some sensible batting. The Karnataka dug out worn a worried look when Baba Aparajith (40) and Vijay Shankar (44) stitched a 71-run stand for the fifth wicket. The defending champions hung on with More removing Aparajith and it all came down to 13 runs off the last over.

It appeared all over for Karnataka when R Ashwin slammed two fours off the first two deliveries from K Gowtham. The lion-hearted off-spinner showed great temperament and grit even as Ashwin had begun celebrating prematurely. Gowtham pulled things back with four brilliant balls to help Karnataka prevail by one run. A touch of brilliance from Pandey came to Karnataka’s rescue when the skipper produced a clinical throw from the deep that saw the end of Shankar. 

With three needed off the final ball, Murugan Ashwin managed just a single, triggering wild celebrations in the Karnataka camp. For Tamil Nadu, it was heart-break for the second straight time. 

Trump card

Earlier, Karnataka got off to a nervy start, with star batsmen KL Rahul (22) and Mayank Agarwal (0) falling in successive deliveries in the fifth over. On the all-important night, Tamil Nadu’s trump card Ashwin used in his big-match experience to deal a double blow to the defending champions.

Devdutt Padikkal (32, 23b, 3x4, 2x6) marched along with lusty hits to the fence before Sundar produced a beauty to castle the opener’s off-stump.    

Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, Karnataka maintained a healthy run-rate with Pandey and Rohan Kadam (35, 28b, 5x4) in the middle.

The game remained in balance as Tamil Nadu did well to not give away big overs. The spin-heavy attack of Tamil Nadu was disciplined but as the innings moved towards the business end, Karnataka upped the ante thanks to Pandey and Kadam to reach a fighting total.

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