BENGALURU: Defending champions Karnataka moved one step closer to the semifinals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy with a seven-wicket win against Punjab in their third Super League Group B match in Surat. On Sunday, riding on Ronit More’s 4/27, Karnataka restricted Punjab to 163/6 in 20 overs at the CB Patel Ground.
In reply, KL Rahul hit an unbeaten 84 off 48 balls to power them to victory. Manish Pandey & Co came into the game on the back of a narrow win over Jharkhand on Friday. Despite batsmen delivering, bowlers almost gifted that match away in the last five overs. On Sunday, after opting to bowl first, Karnataka’s bowlers were right on the money.
By third over, pacers V Koushik and More had removed both the openers including Shubman Gill. However, Punjab skipper Mandeep Singh fought back with a 50-ball 76 that included nine fours and two sixes. Partnering Gurkeerat Singh Mann (44), Mandeep added a crucial 88-run stand for the fourth wicket.
The duo’s assault on Koushik, who went for 53 runs in his four overs, was the highlight of Punjab innings. But when it seemed they would take the game away from Karnataka, More removed both batsmen in quick succession.
Karnataka began the chase on a bright note, scoring at more than 10 runs an over in the powerplay. It took a stumble when Harpreet Brar removed the southern side’s in-form Devdutt Padikkal (2) in the third over. But Rahul never let Karnataka go out of the game. His continuous attack on Punjab bowlers made the chase look easy. The 27-year-old’s unbeaten knock was laced with seven fours and four sixes.
One must also applaud the small but crucial partnerships that helped Karnataka stretch their winning streak to seven in the tournament. First, Rahul partnered Rohan Kadam (27) for a 46-run second-wicket stand.
When the latter departed off a Mayank Markande delivery in the eighth over, Rahul shared 60 runs with Pandey (33) for the third wicket. Once Pandey was dismissed in the 16th over off Abhishek Sharma, Karun Nair completed the formalities with an 11-ball 23. Karnataka chased down the target in 18 overs.
The win helped Karnataka consolidate their position at the top of Group B table with 12 points from three games and put them in touching distance of their second consecutive semifinal spot. Punjab remained second with four points from two matches. Karnataka will face Mumbai in their final Super League game on Monday.
Brief scores: Punjab 163/6 in 20 ovs (Mandeep Singh 76, Gurkeerat Singh Mann 44; Ronit More 4/27) lost to Karnataka 167/3 in 18 ovs (KL Rahul 84 n.o, Manish Pandey 33).