Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Familiar rivals Karnataka, Tamil Nadu face off in final

Karnataka, the defending champion, holds a considerable advantage after having beaten Tamil Nadu twice recently in limited-overs formats.

Prolific: Devdutt Padikkal tops the run charts in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, having scored 548 runs in 11 matches so far.   -  Vijay Soneji

For the second time in two months, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka will face off in a final, this time for honours in the shortest format — the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy — at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium on Sunday.

Karnataka, the defending champion, holds a considerable advantage going into the final after having beaten TN twice recently — in the Super League match last week and in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament last month. Both teams are coming into the final in good form, having lost only two games in this tournament so far. But the teams play totally different brands of cricket.

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Karnataka is powered by its batting firepower. Opener Devdutt Padikkal tops the run charts with 548 runs in 11 matches at an extraordinary 178; he is followed by the likes of K. L. Rahul and Manish Pandey. TN, on the other hand, has depended on its spinners to do the job with R. Sai Kishore leading the bowling column with 20 wickets. M. Siddharth, who has played only in four games, has been impressive with 12 scalps.

These traits showed in their respective semifinal victories. Karnataka chased down 195 in just 15 overs with Padikkal and Rahul thrashing Haryana bowlers, including those with international experiences like Yuzvendra Chahal, Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav. In the second semifinal, TN restricted Rajasthan to just 112 even though the spinners were helped by medium-pacers; Vijay Shankar and Natarajan picked three wickets amongst them.

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Come Sunday, both teams will back their strengths and TN coach D. Vasu said it could well be the battle between his bowlers and Karnataka’s batsmen. “We are going to play to our strengths which is our bowling and spinners. Yes, we lost to them twice in recent times but in this format, it depends on what happens on that day and how we execute our plans,” said Vasu.

Opening worries for TN

While their strengths have got them here so far without much trouble, both teams have some weakness as well.

For Karnataka, the middle-order hasn’t been tested and the pacers have gone for runs while for TN, the opening spot continues to remain a worry and not settled. Ashwin was the fourth opener to be tried on Friday in the last one week.

Having lost to Karnataka twice this season already, TN would want to get one back and share honours in white-ball cricket before the two sides meet yet again in a week to kickstart the Ranji Trophy in Dindigul on December 9.

Top three batsmen and bowlers
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Batting
  • Dinesh Karthik 291 runs (11 matches, 9 innings)
  • Washington Sundar 247 runs (9 matches, 8 innings)
  • Vijay Shankar (11 matches, 7 innings)
  • Bowlers
  • R Sai Kishore 20 (11 matches)
  • T Natarajan 13 (10 matches)
  • M Siddharth 12 (4 matches).

  • Karnataka
  • Batsmen
  • Devdutt Padikkal 548 runs (11 matches)
  • K.L. Rahul 291 runs (7 matches)
  • Manish Pandey 254 runs (8 matches, 7 innnigs)
  • Bowlers
  • Shreyas Gopal 18 (11 matches)
  • Ronit More 11 (7 matches)
  • V Koushik 11 (9 matches).