KPL 2019: C.M. Gautam powers Ballari Tuskers into final

Ballari Tuskers marched into the final of the Karnataka Premier League with an emphatic 37-run victory over Belagavi Panthers in its Qualifier 1 clash.

Captain C.M. Gautam in action during Ballari Tuskers' Qualifier 1 clash against Belagavi Panthers.   -  Special Arrangement

Ballari Tuskers marched into the final of the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) with an emphatic 37-run victory over Belagavi Panthers in its Qualifier 1 clash at the SDNR Wadiyar grounds here on Wednesday. Captain C.M. Gautam was the architect of that victory, his 96 (63b, 9x4, 5x6) propelling Ballari to a commanding 201 for seven in 20 overs. In reply, Belagavi -- minus the in-form Manish Pandey, who has left for India-A duty -- stuttered to 164 for seven.

Belagavi will now prepare for Qualifier 2, where it will face the winner of Thursday's Eliminator.

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Gautam had endured a difficult tournament with the bat before finding form in Ballari's previous game, when he scored an unbeaten 92. He maintained that form on Wednesday, rotating the strike well while putting bad balls away without hesitation. The big-hitting K. Gowtham fell for nought, caught at mid-on heaving at a nothing delivery from Stallin Hoover, but Gautam and Devdutt Padikkal ensured the innings did not lose momentum, adding 49 runs for the third wicket.

After Padikkal fell, Gautam and C.A. Karthik (25) added 67 runs at a quick clip. With Karthik's wicket, Belagavi may have hoped to restrict Ballari to a reasonable score, but Zeeshan Ali Sayyed played a blinder at No.6, smashing 32 runs off 9 balls. It powered Ballari past 200, even as Gautam fell four runs short of a hundred.

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Without Pandey, Belagavi was reliant on Hoover for a big score. The opener made a 32-ball-39 before succumbing to Padikkal's part-time off-spin. Kaunain Abbas, R. Samarth and Shubhang Hegde all fell for single-digit scores, leaving Belagavi struggling at 59 for four. Abhinav Manohar played a lone hand, scoring a valiant, unbeaten 62 (39b). But the task was always going to be too big.

The scores: Ballari Tuskers 201 for seven in 20 overs (C.M. Gautam 96, Zeeshan Ali Sayyed 32, C.A. Karthik 25, D. Avinash two for 53, Zahoor Farooqui two for 48) bt Belagavi Panthers (Stallin Hoover 39, Abhinav Manohar 62 n.o., D. Avinash 31, K.P. Appana two for 26).