Tamil Nadu’s (TN) quest for a third straight Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy title got off to a poor start as the defending champion went down to Chhattisgarh by six runs in its opening league fixture of Elite Group E at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Tuesday.
Chasing 133, TN needed nine off the 20th over but pacer Ravi Kiran produced a dream spell, taking three wickets including that of M. Shahrukh Khan and G. Ajitesh while conceding only two runs to help his side clinch a thriller as TN went down from 124 for five to 126 for nine.
Electing to bat, Chhattisgarh made 132 for five in 20 overs, riding on skipper Harpreet Singh Bhatia’s 49 (40b, 2x4, 2x6). Later Ajay Mandal gave his side the final flourish with an unbeaten 38 off 32 balls.
Bhatia and Mandal added 48 runs for the fifth wicket to rescue their side from a precarious position of 69 for four.
For TN, spinner Varun Chakravarthy (two for 12) was the standout bowler while the likes of B. Aparajith, R. Sanjay Yadav and pacer Sandeep Warrier also chipped in with a wicket each.
In reply, TN’s chase did not get off smoothly as it lost opener N. Jagadeesan cheaply. C. Hari Nishaanth (33), who came in as an Impact Player replacing T. Natarajan, and skipper Aparajith added 37 runs for the second wicket but could not score at a brisk rate. Once the duo got out, TN’s chase struggled as B. Sai Sudharsan and Sanjay Yadav could not build on their starts.
When Ajithesh walked in, things changed for TN as he quickly hit three sixes. Ajitesh was one of the finds of the TNPL (Tamil Nadu Premier League) and was known for his big-hitting ability. The right-hander made 23 off just eight balls and got TN close to the target but could not get his side over the line.
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