Defending champions Karnataka and neighbours Tamil Nadu will face off in the Syed Mushtaq Ali domestic T20 tournament final on Sunday. The two teams have been the most consistent performers in the competition this season and would be keen to put in another solid display in the summit clash to lift the trophy in Surat.
Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu lost just two matches in the league stage en-route the final and had registered clinical wins in the semi-finals against Haryana and Rajasthan respectively. But this is where the similarities between the two end.
Karnataka has lived to the adage that T20 is a batsman’s game and their top order has fired on all cylinders in the tournament. They chased down a stiff target of 195 runs in the semi-final with five overs to spare and eight wickets in hand, riding on yet another solid performance from openers Devdutt Padikkal and KL Rahul.
Padikkal has been a revelation in the tournament, scoring 548 runs in 11 matches at a strike rate of 178 and has more often than not laid the foundation for his team’s victory with Rahul supporting him at the other end.
Tamil Nadu have already witnessed the misery that Padikkal and Rahul can inflict on the opposition bowlers when the two teams met in the Super League stage. They had managed to score a fighting 158 runs on a relatively spin-friendly track. But Karnataka overhauled that score in the 17th over at a loss of just one wicket.
In contrast, the Tamil Nadu batsmen haven’t really taken the tournament by storm and the team has been mostly bailed out by the spinners. Left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore tops the bowling chart with 20 wickets, with M Siddharth claiming 12 wickets in just four games.
However, Tamil Nadu skipper Dinesh Karthik would know that they will need a couple of early wickets for his spinners to have the kind of impact they have had against other oppositions. It will be interesting to see whether Karthik uses the slow bowlers in the powerplay or banks on the seamers to make early inroads.
On the other hand, Karnataka would be hoping that the law of averages does not catch up with their openers in the final, given the fact that their middle order has not really been tested in the entire tournament and could be vulenerable on the slow tracks in Surat.
But if they can avoid an early collpase, Manish Pandey and his boys would definitely be the favourites to add the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy to the Vijay Hazare crown they won by beating the same opponent just over a month ago.