A high-flying Tamil Nadu side was grounded and then made to bite the dust by an Axar Patel-inspired Gujarat in the semi-final of Vijay Hazare Trophy at the Alur grounds near here on Saturday. Set 249 to win, R. Ashwin’s men fell short by 31 runs as Axar, with two spells of 6-1-19-4 and 4-0-23-2, broke Tamil Nadu’s back. Opener Abhinav Mukund played a valiant knock, carrying his bat and ultimately finishing on 104 (142b, 6x4).
In Monday’s final, Gujarat will meet Delhi, who registered a resounding six-wicket win over Himachal Pradesh in the other semi-final.
Tamil Nadu, after having steadily moved to 84 without loss from 16 overs, stuttered. Axar, in the space of 16 balls, scalped four frontline batsmen. He had Dinesh Karthik (41, 51b, 5x4) stumped off his second ball – the batsmen danced down the track only to find that he had been done in by the flight and then tried to defend, only to see the ball turn away.
B. Aparajith and M. Vijay were stumped too, playing forward defence but with their backfoot dragging out. In between, B. Indrajith tried a late cut and was snapped up by Rujul Bhatt at slip. From 84 for no loss, Tamil Nadu had slumped to 98 for four. And on 124, R. Satish, hero in the previous match, was bowled by Hardik Patel, trying to heave one over midwicket. All through this, from the other end, Rujul bowled an uninterrupted spell of 10-0-34-0.
Axar makes crucial breakthroughs
Ashwin, coming ahead of Vijay Shankar, built a 51-run partnership with Abhinav to kindle hopes. However, Axar, with his second spell, poured cold water, accounting for both Ashwin and Vijay. Jaspreet Bumrah then cleaned up the tail to bring down the curtains.
Earlier, after electing to bowl, on what turned out to be slower-than-usual wicket with appreciable turn, Tamil Nadu made the best possible start. Satish, curiously, opened the bowling and dismissed Parthiv Patel off the third ball, having him caught by Abhinav at point. Then, by the 15th over, Gujarat was reduced to 45 for four as Ashwin rang in the bowling changes; perhaps not as frequently as in the quarterfinals, but effectively enough.
Then, with the score at 87, when he trapped Axar in front, Tamil Nadu would have no doubt looked at sub-150 target. Instead they let Chirag Gandhi (71, 82b, 9x4) and Manpreet Juneja (74, 71b, 3x4, 1x6) impart Gujarat’s total a shade of respectability.
The 93-run sixth wicket association consumed 114 balls. The former was the flashier one with nine hits to the boundary. The latter, though, milked the bowling. In fact, the four that he hit to bring up his half century, off 60 balls, was only his second. A 49-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Rohit Dahiya took Gujarat into the green and in hindsight, maybe, into the final.
Meanwhile, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Unmukt Chand made a confident, unbeaten 80 (86b) as Delhi, chasing 201 for victory, stormed home in 41.1 overs. Unmukt’s knock, his 16th List A fifty, contained seven fours and two sixes. Batting first, Himachal had fallen to 131 for seven before Bipul Sharma's 51 helped them to a reasonable total.
Gujarat 248 for eight in 50 overs (P.K. Panchal 25, Chirag Gandhi 71, Manpreet Juneja 74, R. Ashwin three for 51) beat Tamil Nadu 217 in 47.3 overs (Abhinav Mukund 104 n.o., Dinesh Karthik 41, Axar Patel six for 43) by 31 runs. > Full scorecard
Himachal Pradesh 200 for nine in 50 overs (Bipul Sharma 51, Prashant Chopra 33, Paras Dogra 28) lost to Delhi 201 for four in 41.1 overs (Unmukt Chand 80 n.o., Shikhar Dhawan 39) by six wickets. > Full Scorecard
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