Keen to sum up a disastrous one-day campaign on a positive note, Tamil Nadu raised the ante and thumped Rajasthan by seven wickets in its last Vijay Hazare Trophy league match at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Wednesday. As both the teams failed to make it to the next stage of the tournament, the match was approached with some purpose and intent.
A low-scoring match was just the kind of finish Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s men needed, especially after receiving a lot of flak for a shoddy tournament. Playing on a rank turner, Tamil Nadu took all the right decisions - from reading the wicket well to picking the right playing XI and to sticking to game plans.
Rajasthan, batting first, could only muster 141, thanks to R. Sai Kishore’s five-wicket haul (5 for 26 in 7.4 overs). The lanky left-arm spinner spun a web around the Rajasthan batsmen who looked all at bay against quality slow bowling. Chasing a meagre total, Tamil Nadu was off to flyer with Ganga Sridhar Raju taking the attack to the opposition with a quick-fire 28 (24 balls, six fours). Once the intent from TN batsmen was clear, it was just a matter of time before Tamil Nadu wrapped up the match in its favour.
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While the inclusion of four spinners was no brainer considering the nature of the pitch, it was left-arm spinner Kishore who stole the thunder that dented any survival hopes for Rajasthan. He pitched it in the right areas, got the ball to spin away from the batsman and the slip cordon was kept busy all throughout the match.
Surprisingly, it was seamer J Kousik who triggered the slide for Rajasthan. Kousik first had opener A.V. Gautam nick one to Ganga Sridhar Raju and soon accounted for Aditya Garhwal, who offered a catch to Aswin Crist to reduce Rajasthan to 29 for 2.
Opener Y. B. Kothari and skipper Mahipal Lomror, too, didn’t last long and fell in quick succession, leaving Rajasthan reeling at 39 for 4 in the 15th over.
A.R. Gupta and Chetan Bist tried to salvage the sinking ship with a 47-run partnership for the fifth wicket, but once Gupta was sent back by Ravichandran Ashwin, the tide turned back in Tamil Nadu’s favour.
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It was Sai Kishore who then unleashed a fury by taking three wickets in quick succession for just one run as Rajasthan capitulated offering no resistance.
Tamil Nadu’s start was a stark contrast of how Rajasthan’s was. While the visiting batsmen struggled to keep up to the pace and spin of the ball, the TN batsmen found the going easy. It could, however, be attributed to the fact that the wicket eased up after the morning session.
Ganga took Khaleel Ahmed to the cleaners with a flurry of boundaries and helping Tamil Nadu's run-rare to six-per over.
Ganga and his partner Kaushik Gandhi departed in quick succession to leave Tamil Nadu at 36 for 2, but wicketkeeper batsman N. Jagadeesan (39 off 39 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) and Baba Aparajith (55 off 59 balls, 9 fours) made sure there was no twist in the tale with a 94-run match winning partnership.
The duo kept the scoreboard ticking with ease by finding the gaps to surgical precision and combined with good running between the wickets.
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