Odisha denied by umpiring gaffe, Hyderabad and Rajasthan keep all-win records
A hat-trick, a four-over return without giving up a run, a controversial boundary call that rescued the defending champions and scintillating performances from IPL stars were among the many highlights from the group stages of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India’s domestic T20 competition.
As the caravan moves to New Delhi for the knockouts, amid worsening air quality that has left the local administration contemplating a lockdown, here’s a quick look at those made it and those who missed out.
Defending champions Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, led by the in-form Ruturaj Gaikwad, both made the cut on the back of four wins in five matches. However, Maharashtra have to play the pre-quarterfinal despite finishing with a better net run rate than TN because head-to-head is the first criterion for teams tied on points. When the two sides met, TN comfortably defended 167 despite Gaikwad’s 30-ball half-century.
Maharashtra won’t have Gaikwad’s services from here on, as he is part of India’s T20I team for the New Zealand series. TN, who endured a massive slice of luck en route in the group stage, won’t have any such worries, having a full squad to choose from.
Bengal stole the top spot from high-flying Karnataka in the final group game, but both sides made it through to the knockouts without any hiccups. Both sides will be missing key players because of either India A or national duties. Bengal will be without Abhimanyu Easwaran and Wriddhiman Saha, while Karnataka will be without Mayank Agarwal, Devdutt Padikkal and Prasidh Krishna.
Rajasthan were the undisputed leaders, maintaining an all-win record to blaze into the knockouts, even as Himachal staved off competition from Andhra and Jharkhand to squeeze into the knockouts as the second side from the group.
Gujarat topped the pool with four wins in five games, on the back of clinical batting performances, led by Priyank Panchal. However, their designated captain won’t be available for the knockouts because of India A commitments, along with Arzan Nagwaswalla, the left-arm fast bowler who picked up seven wickets. Piyush Chawla, who featured in just one game at IPL 2021, proved why he isn’t a spent force yet. He picked up five wickets in as many games and was economical, conceding at just 6.42 per over.
They named two captains and two squads prior to departure, the kind of confusion and chaos not new to Hyderabad cricket. But on the field, they managed to turn a corner, winning all five games to make the quarterfinals. Tanmay Agarwal, the captain, is currently the tournament’s highest run-getter with 302 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 150, while left-arm seamer CV Milind leads the wicket charts with 16 scalps, including a best of 5 for 8 that helped defend 147 against Uttar Pradesh.
Two-time Ranji winners Vidarbha proved no match for the rest of the pack, as they emerged runaway winners from this group. Meghalaya and Tripura fought hard to post four wins in five games, but couldn’t close out games against Vidarbha.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo