Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: KL Rahul's fluent knock powers Karnataka past Punjab

KL Rahul struck an unbeaten 84 to steer Karnataka to a seven wicket win over Punjab in the Super League match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy on Sunday.

K. L. Rahul's blistering knock of 84 earned Karnataka a comfortable win over Punjab. The victory further improves Karnataka's chances of making it to the semifinals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. (File Image)   -  Sudhakara Jain

For the enthusiastic fans who turned up at the C.B. Patel Ground here on Sunday to see Indian stars in their backyard, K.L. Rahul ensured they were in for a treat as he put on a showcase of his big-hitting abilities with an unbeaten 84 (48b, 7x4, 4x6) to help Karnataka beat Punjab by seven wickets in the Super League match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

With its third win in as many matches, defending champion Karnataka has more or less secured a berth in the semifinals.

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Chasing 164, the Indian batsman made the Punjab attack look amateurish as he treated the bowlers with disdain by executing some outrageous shots. But things could have been a lot different had substitute fielder Kirshan Alang not dropped Rahul at backward point on the very first ball of the chase.

Rahul immediately made Punjab pay the price as he sent the very next delivery from Sandeep Sharma over the top of the infield for a boundary to get going. The carnage well and truly began in the next over when he went after pacer Siddarth Kaul hitting him for three sixes and a four. The pacer couldn’t get his length right and bowled short, allowing Rahul to hook, pull and loft him over covers as he quickly raced to 31.

Against the left-arm spinners Abhishek Sharma and Harpreet Singh Brar, Rahul was quick on his feet as went inside out on a couple of occasions to find boundaries through the cover region.

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After losing opener Devdutt Padikkal early, Rohan Kadam and Manish Pandey chipped in with cameos before Karun Nair hit two fours and two sixes to finish off the chase in 18 overs.

Earlier, put in to bat, Punjab lost openers Abhishek Sharma and Shubhman Gill early before skipper Mandeep Singh staged a recovery scoring 76 (50b, 9x4, 2x6).

Like Rahul, Mandeep too was a beneficiary of a dropped catch off the first ball he faced when Shreyas Gopal dropped a simple chance at backward point. Immediately, he went after pacer V. Koushik hitting him for three boundaries in the fifth over of the match and from there on looked in complete control.

Mandeep and Gurkeerat Mann, who made 44, added 88 runs for the fourth-wicket partnership as Punjab recovered from 55-3 with 49 runs coming off the last four overs.