Tamil Nadu 116 for 3 (Washington 54*, R Ashwin 31, D Chahar 1-11) beat Rajasthan 112 for 9 (Rajesh Bishnoi 23, Vijay Shankar 2-13, Washington 1-2) by seven wickets
Dinesh Karthik’s Tamil Nadu and Manish Pandey’s Karnataka will square off for the Syed Mushtaq Ali title in a repeat of the 50-over Vijay Hazare final on December 1. Incidentally, this will be the first time that the finalists of the Vijay Hazare trophy will also contest for the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy in an Indian domestic season.
After asking Rajasthan to bat first under lights in Surat’s Lalabhai Contractor Stadium, Karthik rifled through his options, using as many as seven bowlers to limit Rajasthan to 112 for 9.
Tamil Nadu then bumped up R Ashwin to the top – he was opening the batting for only the second time in T20 cricket according to ESPNcricinfo’s data – and although he couldn’t get the big hits away, the senior pro helped see off the new-ball threat posed by Deepak Chahar and co.
After C Hari Nishanth chopped on to Chahar for a duck, Ashwin put on 69 for the second wicket with allrounder Washington Sundar to lend direction to the chase. Ashwin holed out for 31 off 33 balls in the 11th over and then Karthik was pinned lbw six overs later, but Washington remained unbeaten on 54 off 46 balls to finish the chase without much fuss.
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Earlier in the evening, though, Washington didn’t have too much to do with the ball, delivering a solitary over and claiming the wicket of opener Ankit Lamba for 15. Rajasthan captain Chahar promoted himself as the other opener – he was initially picked by Stephen Fleming as a batting allrounder at Rising Pune Supergiant – but Tamil Nadu’s new-ball fingerspinner R Sai Kishore barged through his flimsy defences with an arm ball. The wicket took Kishore’s Powerplay tally to 15 in this Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. No other bowler has taken more than 10 wickets in the Powerplay this tournament.
With RCB’s director of cricket Mike Hesson and a few other scouts in attendance, Kishore finished with 1 for 35 in his four overs. M Siddharth, the other left-arm spinner, who was a belated inclusion in the squad after M Vijay suffered an injury, returned 1 for 22.
Seam-bowling allrounder Vijay Shankar hit the hard lengths and compounded Rajasthan’s woes, picking up 2 for 13 in his four overs. Ashwin was held back until the 14th over and he struck almost immediately, trapping Manander Singh lbw for 7. At this point, Rajasthan were tottering at 76 for 7. Some late blows from Chandrapal Singh and Ravi Bishnoi hauled Rajasthan past 100 and helped them avoid the ignominy of being bundled out.
Barring the Bishnois – Rajesh and Ravi – no other Rajasthan batsman passed 20. Chahar, however, briefly raised their hopes when he dismissed Hari Nishanth, but Ashwin and Washington saw off the Powerplay without any further damage. Ashwin ventured to play some funky shots, but couldn’t connect with them well enough while Washington was more adept at keeping the scorecard ticking.
Washington was particularly severe on Ravi Bishnoi, the legspinner, taking him for 30 off 16 balls, including three sixes, the pick of them being a rasping slog-sweep over midwicket. In stark contrast, Ashwin was scratchy against the spinners and his stop-start innings finally ended when he hit a half-tracker from left-arm fingerspinner Chandrapal straight into the lap of deep midwicket.
Left-arm seamer Aniket Choudhary gave Rajasthan another reason to smile when he removed Karthik, but it was Washington who had the last laugh.
In 2006-07, Tamil Nadu became the inaugural Syed Mushtaq Ali champions under Karthik. Can they repeat the feat against a power-packed Karnataka side that thumped them in October earlier this year?
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