TNPL: Rajkumar's all-round show sets up Karaikudi Kaalai win

Rajkumar scored a 19-ball 46 and picked four wickets to help Karaikudi Kaalai defeat Madurai Super Giants by 52 runs in a Tamil Nadu Premier League match in Chennai. It was Madurai's fourth loss in as many games.

Rajkumar, Tamil Nadu Premier League Karaikudi Kaalai

R. Rajkumar came good with the bat and the ball for Karaikudi Kaalai against Madurai Super Giants at Chepauk on Tuesday.   -  R. Ragu

After three defeats in three games, Madurai Super Giants (MSG) desperately sought a win against Karaikudi Kaalai (KK). But it failed to stop R. Rajkumar, who scored a 19-ball 46 and picked four wickets to prolong MSG’s drought.

After surging Karaikudi’s total to 149/7, Rajkumar struck in each of his four overs to shut MSG out for 97 in 16.1 overs.

MSG began the chase well, scoring 14 off the first over. But Mohan Prasath scalped S. Thyagarajan and K. B. Arun Karthik in the second and S. S. Kumar in the fourth to shackle MSG.

P. S. Chandran, at three, searched for partners to stabilise the innings. But the most he could manage was a 26-run stand for the fourth wicket with P. Francis Rokins. With the required rate mounting and his team members falling, Chandran’s do-or-die slog in the 16th over went straight to KK skipper Badrinath at cover, ringing Madurai’s death bell.

After Badrinath opted to bat, Vijay Kumar (17 off 13) launched the innings, punching two fours — to point and long on — in the first over by Palani Amarnath. He was out leg-before to Muruganantham in the fourth over when he tried to work the ball to square-leg.

Badrinath (24 off 27), at three, did some industrious run-making. He scouted the gaps and ran as fast as his 36-year-old body could. He fell, chipping Maan K. Bafna to Suresh Kumar at long-off.

The innings trudged like a pregnant goat, with the run-rate less than six, when Rajkumar walked in at the 14th over. He, unlike his skipper, wasn’t very interested in manoeuvring the ball. He believed in force. He lashed the scoring rate with his powerful bottom-hand bringing four fours and as many sixes.

He relished M. Raja’s short, slow deliveries in the 16th over, striking two fours and a six. When Muruganantham bowled wider in the next over, trying to put Rajkumar out of reach, he canted and ploughed the ball to the mid-wicket fence.

When Amarnath tried a bouncer, Rajkumar hooked it fiercely over the square leg boundary. Chris Gayle, one of the best power-hitters of the game, grinned from the stands.

Rajkumar’s 19-ball fury ended when Amarnath’s straight, slightly low ball avoided a violent swing and hit the stumps. But the run-rate had soared above seven by then. KK finished at 149/7.

Brief scores: Karaikudi Kaalai: 149/7 in 20 overs (R. Rajkumar 46, 19b, 4x4, 4x6; M. Raja 2/33, Maan Bafna 2/14) beat Madurai Super Giants: 97 all out in 16.1 overs (P. S. Chandran 43, 40b, 2x4, 2x6; R. Rajkumar 4/19, S. Mohan Prasath 3/16)

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