TNPL: Kovai Kings reigns supreme over the Panthers

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who arrived in Tirunelveli before the match went underway, said that the batsmen would need to play intelligently with a breeze blowing across.

Abhishek Tanwar of Siechem Madurai Panthers being run out by S. Manigandan of Lyca Kovai Kings at Sankar Nagar Ground, Tirunelveli on Saturday.   -  R. Ragu

One of the first things that Mahendra Singh Dhoni said once he reached the ground here before the match between Siechem Madurai Panthers and Lyca Kovai Kings was how challenging would the game be with the heavy breeze blowing across.

In the first over, Panthers’ star player KB Arun Karthik found out the peril of hitting against the wind as his shot hung in the air over mid-wicket with T. Natarajan coming up with a superb catch even as the ball was dying on him. 

From there on, it was all downhill for the Panthers - who was the first team to qualify for the playoffs - as it kept losing wickets regularly. The team laboured to 103 for eight and Kings made easy work of the target winning by eight wickets to finish the group stages with eight points. 

Kings’ opener M Shahrukh Khan set the platform with a quick 29 before Ashwin Venkataraman and R. Rohith nudged away to the target.

It now needs results to go its way on Sunday -- the last day of the league games -- to secure a place in the playoffs.

Earlier, electing to field, Kovai Kings’ opening bowler K. Vignesh laid the foundation with an impressive opening spell generating good pace and accounting for Panthers’ openers. 

Kings’ skipper Abhinav Mukund then got his spinners into action, and the trio of left-arm spinner S. Ajith Ram and leg spinners M.P. Rajesh and S. Manigandan spun a web around Panthers reducing them to 59 for eight by the 15th over.

Left-arm pacer Natarajan continued his good form with a miserly spell in the middle overs with figures of one for 11 from his four overs and walked away with the man of the match award.

It was left to all-rounder J. Kousik (32 n.o.) and C.V. Varun (20 n.o.) to do some heavy lifting towards the end of the innings for Panthers, to bring a semblance of respectability to the score. 

The duo added 44 runs for the unbroken ninth-wicket partnership with Kousik hitting two sixes in the final over to get score past 100.

Brief scores: Siechem Madurai Panthers 103 for eight in 20 overs (J. Kousik 32 n.o., K. Vignesh two for 23) lost to Lyca Kovai Kings 107 for two in 17.2 overs (M. Shahrukh Khan 29, Ashwin Venkataraman 28 n.o. , R Rohith 34 n.o.)