Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Vijay, Kousik keep Tamil Nadu's qualification hopes alive

While Murali Vijay scored a brilliant 74, J. Kousik with an unbeaten 41 helped Tamil Nadu beat Vidarbha by three wickets.

Murali Vijay made a match-winning half-century and helped Tamil Nadu secure an important win.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Murali Vijay orchestrated the chase with a touch of class and J. Kousik delivered the winning blows. As the asking rate mounted, Vijay struck the ball down the straight-field, eased it over the cover fence and whipped the bowlers through the vacant spaces.

With nine needed off the last over, Kousik clubbed the first delivery from paceman Yash Thakur down-the-ground for a maximum and the contest was effectively over.

A natural athlete, Kousik had run between the wickets like a terrier, and pierced the gaps when the opportunity presented itself with rasping cover-drives.

Pursuing 142, Tamil Nadu was home with three wickets and four deliveries remaining over Vidarbha in a Group B contest of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament on Thursday.

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Vijay (74, 47b, 4x4, 4x6) and Kousik (41 not out, 35b, 2x4, 1x6) emerged the heroes for Tamil Nadu against a tough adversary.

With three wins and two losses in five matches, Tamil Nadu has an outside chance of qualification if the other results go its way and the side manages to improve its net run-rate dramatically in its last league match against minnows Meghalaya on Saturday.

Even as wickets fell around him, Vijay batted with a blend of solidity and flair. He would have seen Tamil Nadu home but for a mix-up with Kousik.

The Vidarbha bowling posed some tough questions even as the pitch slowed down a tad in the second half of the afternoon.

Left-arm paceman Shrikant Wagh was impressive. Akshay Wakhare, the lanky off-spinner with a high-arm action, also demanded attention. He trapped Washington Sundar, who missed a sweep, leg-before.

And N. Jagadeesan was brilliantly caught and bowled by Thakur. But then Vidarbha ran into a roadblock in the form of Vijay and Kousik.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu restricted Vidarbha after electing to field. Skipper Ashwin was impressive, having his off-spinner as the stock delivery even as he mixed his trajectory and length. His two for 16 off four overs was a controlled exhibition of bowling.

And seamer Abhishek Tanwar, changing his pace and sending down effective yorkers, scalped three. For Vidarbha, Rushabh Rathod batted fluently for his 31-ball 51 (4x4, 3x6); he used his feet, went deep into his crease and and did essay some handsome strokes.

But the mercurial Kousik, who should have played much earlier for Tamil Nadu in the competition, had the last word.

He said, “There was pressure in the last over. But I knew if I could get in one big shot, we would be through.” And Kousik pulled it off.

The scores: Vidarbha 141 for nine in 20 overs (Jitesh Sharma 26, Rushabh Rathod 51, R. Ashwin two for 16, Abhishek Tanwar three for 22) lost to Tamil Nadu 142 for seven in 19.2 overs (M. Vijay 74, J. Kousik 41 not out, S. Wagh two for 23). Points: Tamil Nadu 4, Vidarbha 0
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