Nellai Royal Kings were in trouble with 57 needed from 21 balls to qualify for the final. Nidhish Rajagopal struggled to find the boundaries, scoring 26 off 27, though Mr. Ajitesh (73 no, 44b, 5×4, 5×6) single-handedly kept the side in the game with another swashbuckling innings.
It took a gutsy call by the Royal Kings management to retire Nidhish and get Rithik Easwaran (39 no, 11b, 6×6) in. Under immense pressure, the young left-hander showed a calm head and used his good bat swing to speak with telling effect as Royal Kings beat Dindigul Dragons by seven wickets in a thrilling Qualifier-2 of the TNPL here at ICL ground on Monday.
With 37 needed in the last two overs, Rithik flayed Mr. Kishoor for three sixes down the ground from the first three balls of the 19th over. Ajitesh hit the fifth ball for a six before Kishoor delivered a no ball on the last delivery, allowing Rithik to scoop the last legal delivery to fine-leg as 33 were out there.
However, the Dragons did not go down without a fight as Subodh Bhati did his best to defend four runs in the 20th over, bringing the equation to one on the last ball. But Rithik completed the chase in style by depositing a low full toss at square-leg to ensure Nellai meet Lyca Kovai Kings in the final on Wednesday.
The chase was set by Ajitesh who continued to impress with his attacking backfoot play and ensured that the Nellai side kept pace with the asking rate. The diminutive right-hander cut loose in the 15th over, hitting Kishoor for back-to-back sixes by charging down the wicket, the second of which took him to his third straight half-century of the tournament.
Shivam Singh’s innings helped the Dindigul side post a good total. | Photo Credit: E. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN
Earlier, Shivam Singh continued his excellent form in the tournament hitting 76 (46b, 4×4, 6×6) to ensure the Dragons ended up at 185 for five after being asked to bat. Shivam and left-hander M. Boopathi Vaishnav Kumar (41, 27b, 4×4, 1×6) added 81 for the second wicket to help the Dragons set up a competitive total.
The marks: Dindigul Dragons 185/5 in 20 overs (Shivam Singh 76, M. Boopathi Vaishnav Kumar 41, Sonu Yadav 2/31) lost to Nellai Royal Kings 191/3 in 20 overs (KB Arun Karthick 26, G. Ajitesh 73 no , Nidhish Rajagopal 26 rtd, Rithik Easwaran 39 no).