Lyca Kovai Kings, courtesy of skipper Shahrukh Khan, held its nerves to clinch a last ball win against Nellai Royal kings in the second qualifier and progressed into the final of Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) on Friday at the SNR College Cricket ground in Coimbatore.
Kovai Kings were down and out in the penultimate over as Shahrukh,held off a swirling skier, had started his trek back, taking with him the hopes his side.
Then came the dreaded sound for the Nellai Royal Kings. Its talented 17-year-old leg-spinner Karthick Manikandan, who had bowled with flight, deception, turn and heart, had delivered a no ball.
Shahrukh walked back and the Lyca camp heaved a sigh of relief.
Eventually, pursuing a daunting 209, Lyca needed 16 off the last over. A few hefty blows later, it was two in two.
Then, more drama. Manish Ravi was bowled by Sri Neranjan off the fifth ball. It boiled down to one off one. Would it be a tie?
The left-handed Ajith Ram drove the last ball to mid-on and scampered for the winning run.
Shahrukh, the Finisher, was there at the end with a 24-ball unbeaten 58 (4×4, 5×6).
He struck the ball with brutal power, steered his side home to earn the Man of the Match award.
Stroking the ball with style and sweet timing, and splitting the field between point and cover, the left-handed Sai Sudharsan too kept Kovai in the hunt with a sublime 53 (33, 5×4, 2×6).
But then, leg-spinner Manikandan, took out Sai with a delivery outside off which the batsman fatally attempted to hit against the turn.
He then, with deception in flight, had U. Mukilesh taken at long-off and held his nerve against the heavy-hitting Abhishek Tanwar to hold a swirling return catch.
Earlier, the left-handed Sri Neranjan (34, 21b, 2×4, 3×6) turned on the ignition key for Nellai, unleashing a blaze of shots at the start of the Nellai innings after the side was inserted.
This was a night when Sanjay Yadav assumed centre-stage with a brutal 26-ball 55. He was dealing in sixes, there were seven of them in all.
And Sanjay launched into seamer R. Divakar with three sixes, a straight hit being a sledgehammer blow.
Generating enormous power with his bat-speed and wrists, Sanjay plundered runs on the leg-side.
The third-wicket pair added 88 in only 43 balls and the in-form and more classical Aparajith (44, 33b, 1×4, 3×6) played his part with flair and fluency, splitting open the field with delectable shots, cover-driving with authority.
TNPL can throw up heroes out of nowhere and on this occasion it was the 19-year-old G. Ajitesh with his whirlwind 13-ball 38 with fives sixes, who sizzled as the Kovai bowling fizzled out.
Ajitesh picked the length early and dumped the seamers over long-off and long-on at the Death with clean hits in a savage onslaught.
Nellai’s batting might had come to the fore again. But Shahrukh had the last laugh.
Nellai Royal Kings 208 for six in 20 overs (Sri Neranjan 34, L. Suryapprakash 25, B. Aparajith 44, Sanjay Yadav 55, G. Ajitesh 38, Abhishek Tanwar two for 34, G.R. Manish two for 43) lost to Lyca Kovai Kings 209 for eight in 20 overs (Ganga Sridhar Raju 28, Sai Sudharsan 53, M. Shahrukh Khan 58 n.o., K. Easwaran two for 30, Aparajith two for 42, Karthick Manikandan three for 46).