Madurai Panthers clinches TNPL title

Arun Karthick, the tournament's highest run-scorer, scored a well-calculated 75 to help Madurai to its maiden title.

K.B. Arun Karthick plays a shot against Dindigul Dragons   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Madurai Panthers was crowned TNPL 2018 champion after its batsmen shook off a jittery start against Dindigul Dragons to stroll home by seven wickets in the final at the M.A. Chidambaram stadium here on Sunday.

Defending 117, Dragons' left-arm spinner M Silambarasan snapped up three in the first over, triggering hopes of a counterattack which very few had seen coming until then.

Such was the pugnacity and suddenness of the chain of events - Panthers were 2/3 at one stage - that it threatened to tilt the scale in Dragons' favour, albeit briefly. 

However, Arun Karthik (75*, 50b, 4x6, 4x4) doused Dragons' rising spirits with a well-calculated assault on the opposition bowlers. The tournament's highest run-scorer, unperturbed by the fall of wickets around him, hammered a 50-ball 75 which was studded with four humongous sixes.

He stitched together a fourth-wicket 117-run partnership with Shijit Chandran (38*, 49b, 1x6, 3x4) as the duo carried Panthers past the finish line with 17 balls to spare.

Dragons run out of fire

Earlier, Dragons, put in to bat, lost two wickets in quick succession. Abhishekh Tanwar bowled opener Hari Nishanth (1, 2b) with one that seamed in a touch before Lokesh Raj got rid of Balchander Anirudh (4, 2b, 1x4) - wicket-keeper K.B. Arun Karthick flying to his left to snaffle a fine catch, first of the three to come his way.

N.S. Chaturved (9, 5b, 2x4) tried to inject momentum with two handsome boundaries before a flashy cut from the bowling of Tanwar settled into the hands of a diving Rahil Shah at cover-point.

Tanwar (4 for 30) and Raj (3 for 15) breathed fire with the new ball to leave Dragons reeling at 33/5 - the lowest PowerPlay score in a TNPL final across all editions.

The in-form middle-order batsman, R. Vivek (13, 10b, 1x6), and captain N. Jagadeesan (51, 43b, 1x6, 5x4) tried to repair the damage but to no avail. Although Vivek got off the mark with a six over sweeper-cover, he lived dangerously against Raj, having been dropped off successive deliveries in the sixth over.

He wasn't third-time lucky though as Karthikeyan redeemed himself - he had grassed a tough chance off Raj's bowling earlier - with a simple catch at third-man.

Meanwhile, Jagadeesan stood tall amid Dragons' ruins. He switched between the roles of a sheet anchor and aggressor, almost effortlessly, en route a stroke-filled half-century off 42 balls as Dragons eventually folded for a modest 117.