Defending champion Seichem Madurai Panthers ended the group stage with a narrow two-wicket win over IDreams Karaikudi Kaalai but not before making heavy weather of a paltry chase of 94, in the Sankar Cement-TNPL match here at the India Cements ground on Thursday.
The win moved Panthers to provisional second spot in the table with 10 points and only a win for Chepauk Super Gillies on Friday could push the title-holder down to third.
Panthers had a terrible start losing two wickets to pacer Sunil Sam in the first over of its chase. First, K.B. Arun Karthick was caught at covers driving before a beautiful inswinging delivery trapped the left-handed Nilesh Subramanian.
The Madurai team found itself in more trouble losing three more wickets with left-arm spinner S. Mohan Prasath taking two and Maan K Bafna picking one as the defending champion was reduced to 40 for five.
While this was happening, skipper Shijit Chandran held the fort at one and was helped by N. Selva Kumaran who found three quick boundaries to ease the pressure off.
Just when things were coming under control, Shijit lost his head going for an expansive pull only to top-edge it to medium-pacer Ashwin Kumar before Kumaran was run out thanks to a mix up with Abhishek Tanwar.
However, L. Kiran Akash came to the rescue as he slammed a four and six off Sunil Sam in the 17th over, before finishing it off with another boundary off Ashwin Kumar.
Earlier, electing to bat, the Kaalai top order succumbed meekly against the Panthers’ spinners. Left-arm spinner N Selva Kumaran gave the initial breakthrough when he got skipper S. Anirudha bowled off his pads before the experienced Rahil Shah took centre stage on a wicket that was gripping.
The TN tweaker struck immediately in his first over getting Maan K Bafna leg before, a rather lucky one - the replays showed he was struck outside - and then got opener V. Aditya caught at long-on in his second over before scalping big-hitter Shajahan in his final over caught and bowled.
The Panthers’ spinners were on top of the Kaalai batsmen in the middle overs applying the squeeze and no batsmen even managed to get 20. Between the fifth over and 16th over, Kaalai could not get a single boundary off the bat with only a leg-bye that went to the fence.
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