The Dindigul Dragons breathed fire and the Salem Spartans’ innings was burnt before it could take flight.
Wickets tumbled as the night wore on and Spartans, chasing 186, slid down the slippery slope in this one-sided TNPL clash at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
In the end, the margin was 76. It would have been worse but for M. Ashwin’s 38-ball 47.
The Dragons’ bowling was incisive. R. Suthesh can be deceptively sharp with his left-arm seam and he castled S. Abhishek with a delivery that came in sharply.
Vijay Shankar, on his knee, struck L. Vignesh for a sweet six over long-off. But then, Suthesh got him chasing a widish delivery. The batsman stood his ground but the replays revealed a sound.
Rash strokes and panic running meant the Spartans continued to lose wickets. The pressures of the chase, compounded by accurate bowling with some nip, cut all escape routes.
Earlier, Spartans elected to field. There is an ease about Hari Nishaanth’s ways at the crease that soothes your senses. The southpaw has grace, flow and the gift of timing.
A six down the ground off Vijay Shankar was marked by a still head and balance. And the swing of the willow was smooth and straight.
The young man handled the pressures of captaincy capably, opening the innings and stringing together partnerships during his 42-ball 52.
The thrust to the innings was given though by R. Vivek who threw in big punches during his 41-ball 59 at No. 3.
He smashed left-arm spinner Ganesh Moorthi over long-on after the bowler had sold the dummy to S. Arun.
When Vivek cut, he did so hard. He displayed delicate touch too by slicing G. Periyasamy between deep point and third man.
When leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin flighted, he was ruthlessly dismissed over long-on.
Lokesh Raj, sending down his seamers cleverly, had Vivek taken at third man to end the 76-run second-wicket stand and then consumed the dangerous K. Mani Bharathi, held at deep extra-cover, with his next delivery.
But TNPL throws up surprises and R.S. Mokit Hariharan blazed away towards the end with a furious 15-ball 32 not out of rapier-like strokes.
At 185 for six, Dragons had runs on the board; as many as 87 runs had been rattled up in the last five.
And the Spartans could not sizzle. It just fizzled out.