Defending champ almost assured of semifinal berth after big win over Punjab
For the enthusiastic fans, who turned up at the C.B. Patel Ground here on Sunday to see the Indian stars play in their backyard, K.L. Rahul ensured they were in for a treat. He showcased his big-hitting abilities with an unbeaten 84 (48b, 7×4, 4×6) to help Karnataka beat Punjab by seven wickets in the Super League match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament.
With its third win in as many matches, defending champion Karnataka has more or less secured a berth in the semifinals.
Chasing 164, Rahul made Punjab’s attack look amateurish. He treated the bowlers with disdain executing some outrageous shots, like standing tall and clearing the field on the off-side.
But things could have been a lot different had substitute fielder Kirshan Alang not dropped Rahul at backward point off the very first ball of the chase.
Rahul immediately made Punjab pay the price. He sent the very next delivery from Sandeep Sharma over the top of the infield for a boundary to get going.
The carnage well and truly began in the next over when he went after pacer Siddarth Kaul, hitting him for three sixes and a four. The pacer couldn’t get his length right as he bowled short allowing Rahul to hook, pull and loft him over covers to quickly race to 31.
Against the left-arm spinners Abhishek Sharma and Harpreet Singh Brar, Rahul was quick on his feet and went inside out on a couple of occasions to find boundaries through the cover region.
After losing opener Devdutt Padikkal early, Rohan Kadam and Manish Pandey chipped in with cameos before Karun Nair quickly hit two fours and two sixes to finish off the chase in 18 overs.
Staging a recovery
Earlier, put in to bat, Punjab lost its openers, Abhishek Sharma and Shubhman Gill early before skipper Mandeep Singh staged a recovery scoring 76 (50b, 9×4, 2×6).
Like Rahul, Mandeep too was a beneficiary of a dropped catch off the first ball he faced when Shreyas Gopal dropped a simple chance at backward point. Immediately he went after pacer V. Koushik hitting him for three boundaries in the fifth over of the match and from there on looked in complete control.
Mandeep and Gurkeerat Mann, who made 44, added 88 for the fourth-wicket partnership as Punjab recovered from 55/3 with 49 runs coming off the last four overs.