BENGALURU: In the last two years, Tamil Nadu had a poor run. Their star-studded teams failed to make it past the group stages in all three domestic tournaments. And that was something Dinesh Karthik & Co took to the chin. On Wednesday, the five-time champions recovered from early jolts and defied constant whistling from the sparse crowd to beat Gujarat and reach the Vijay Hazare Trophy final.
Despite an all-win record in the tournament, it was not smooth sailing for Tamil Nadu. Chasing 177 in 40 overs, the batting-heavy side struggled against the Gujarat bowlers and were reduced to 96/5 after 24.2 overs. That’s when M Shahrukh Khan (56 n.o, 46 balls, 3x4, 3x6) and Washington Sundar (27 n.o) carried them home with an 85-run stand.
With clouds hovering above and the game reduced to 40 overs per side, Karthik opted to bowl on a slow surface. R Ashwin trapped Priyank Panchal leg-before in the fourth over. Washington got the big wicket of Parthiv Patel in the next.Bhargav Merai and Dhruv Raval (40 off 37) tried to steady the innings with a 53-run stand but M Mohammed (3/23) got the latter off his first ball. The medium-pacer with his tight line and length kept batsmen in check. Apart from Axar Patel (37) none could put up a fight.
Tamil Nadu’s start was not good. Murali Vijay (3) and Baba Aparajith (6) were out by the ninth over with only 25 on board before Karthik (47 off 47) and Abhinav Mukund (32) took control. While the former was going steady without taking risks, the Tamil Nadu skipper kept the scorecard ticking.When it seemed things were in control, Tamil Nadu lost Abhinav, Karthik and Vijay Shankar in quick succession. But Washington and Shahrukh waited for bad balls and kept rotating strike. When the asking increased, Shahrukh switched gears with four overs to go. Axar, Piyush Chawla and Roosh Kalaria were hit for 25 runs combined.
“When your personal mark helps the team win, it feels good. I’ve been practising for such situations,” said Shahrukh. “Reaching the final feels great. After a bad last season, we decided to follow a process. That has helped us and we will follow the same in the final.”Semifinals: Gujarat 177/9 in 40 ovs (Raval 40, Axar 37; Mohammed 3/23) lost to TN 181/5 in 39 ovs (Shahrukh 56 n.o, Karthik 47). Chhattisgarh 223 in 49.4 ovs (Khare 78; Koushik 4/46) lost to Karnataka 229/1 in 40 ovs (Padikkal 92, Rahul 88 n.o).