TNPL: Dindigul Dragons and Super Gillies clash for direct final berth

Dindigul Dragons takes on Chepauk Super Gillies in the first qualifier of the Sankar Cement-TNPL on Sunday.

Chepauk Super Gillies has got a boost with the return of Vijay Shankar.   -  G. Karthikeyan

After a gruelling 28-match schedule, the two most consistent teams of the tournament over the past four years - Dindigul Dragons and Chepauk Super Gillies - find themselves in the battle for a direct berth into the final when they face off in the first qualifier of the Sankar Cement-TNPL here at the India Cements ground on Sunday.

Dragons, last year’s finalists, topped the league for the second consecutive year with just one loss in seven games, while CSG (2017 winner & 2016 finalists) finished second with five wins.

Led by R. Ashwin, Dragons have been clinical — be it defending small totals or chasing targets with N. Jagadeesan and C. Hari Nishanth delivering at the top of the order.

Read: Aparajith guides Veerans into playoffs

The team had a minor blip in its last game against Lyca Kovai Kings where it failed to chase a modest 135, being bowled out for 99. However, Jagadeesan said the performance was not a cause for concern even though it exposed the middle order a bit with the top two batsmen scoring close 599 runs between them.

For CSG, K.H. Gopinath has been the most consistent with the bat with some one-off performances from the others, but the return of Vijay Shankar should be a huge boost.

While the bowling is settled with pacers Harish Kumar, G. Periyaswamy and left-arm spinner R. Alexander, skipper Kaushik Gandhi said he expected more from his top-order including himself to complement Gopinath.

Eliminator clash

In the second match of the day, VB Kanchi Veerans take on defending champion Siechem Madurai Panthers and there is little to separate the two. The Veerans led by B. Aparajith has had different players step up when needed, with the skipper himself producing some consistent performances despite two losses towards the end of the group stages before a clinical win on Friday sealed its berth in the last four.

Also read: Chepauk Super Gillies move to second on Vijay Shankar TNPL debut

Panthers on the other hand, after two losses in its first three games, come into the eliminator on a four-match winning streak and the team has done well despite losing three players from the title-winning squad last year - C.V. Varun (injury), D. Rohit and Thalaivan Sargunam (ineligible after the duo shifted to Pondicherry for Ranji Trophy).

Sunday’s matches: Qualifier 1: Dindigul Dragons vs Chepauk Super Gillies, 3.15 p.m.; Eliminator: Siechem Madurai Panthers vs VB Kanchi Veerans, 7.15 p.m.