Almost two years ago, Karnataka handed out to Tamil Nadu its most agonising white-ball defeat – by one run – to win its second Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy at Surat. On Sunday, when the teams face-off for the same title at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground, TN will look to wipe out that lingering pain.
Though TN went on to win the title last year, Karnataka is only too aware that its rival will hold back nothing. This ‘Southern Derby’ involves teams that have fought some intense battles. No wonder, the result carries more emotions than any other.
Unlike in Surat where the teams were almost at full strength, their upcoming clash is without most stars. But the intensity is going to be no less. For the record, the bragging rights are firmly with Karnataka after having beaten TN four times, including thrice in succession, in the last five encounters.
However, this season, TN appears a more complete unit as compared to Karnataka. What gives TN a clear edge is its spin resources. With the pitch showing signs of assisting the slower bowlers, Karnataka batters can expect to face up to 12 overs of spin.
The 12 noon start almost takes the toss out of the equation. TN has consistently won by chasing targets while Karnataka proved it is just about fine in defending them, like in the last two matches against Bengal and Vidarbha.
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With such a background, it will be interesting to see if Karnataka wins the toss and forces TN out of its comfort zone of batting second. There is not much to choose between the batting strengths of the teams. Their fielding and catching too appears more assured than Karnataka.
On the other hand, Karnataka has undergone many testing times on its way to the final. This in a way has prepared the team well for Monday’s clash.
In crunch situations, Karnataka has found a trick, like debutant Abhinav Manohar whose counter-punches stunned Saurashtra or Vidyadhar Patil’s final over against Vidarbha. Clearly, the ball-striking abilities of Abhinav Manohar must have caught the eye of the ‘scouts’ present at the stadium ahead of IPL’s mega auction. His clean hitting from the first ball he faces has stood out.
However, Karnataka’s bowling in the Powerplay has been far from impressive in recent times. If the opening over against Bengal went for 20 and the Powerplay score was 52 for 3, Vidarbha began with a 16-run over and reached 56 for 1 after six overs.
TN has no such worries. In its last two victories, the batters and bowlers did their job, by turns. TN looks ready for Karnataka.