A great hallmark of champion teams is the ability to get out of tough situations and raise their game to another level when the stakes get higher. Chepauk Super Gillies did just that and showed why it is the most successful team in the Tamil Nadu Premier League as it beat table-topper Nellai Royal Kings by five wickets in the first qualifier here at the Salem Cricket Foundation ground on Wednesday.
The defending champion came in with bespoke plans and executed them clinically by restricting Royal Kings to just 140 after winning the toss.
The Super Gillies’s chase though did not start well with Athisayaraj Davidson removing N. Jagadeesan, caught at slip and S. Radhakrishnan caught going for a pull in the first over.
R. Sai Kishore (43, 2×4, 4×6) and skipper M. Kaushik Gandhi (40) turned things around immediately as they went after the Royal Kings bowlers adding 78 runs for the third wicket.
Kaushik hit pacer K. Easwaran, hitting him for a couple of sixes before Sai Kishore slammed spinners R. Sanjay Yadav and Aparajith with some clean hitting down the ground, hitting the latter for three sixes.
Debutant leg-spinner M. Karthick (3/14) gave Royal Kings some hope by removing the two set batters but R. Sathish (30 n.o., 17b, 4×4, 1×6) and Harish Kumar (14 n.o.) ensured Super Gillies will have a chance to go for a hat-trick of titles on Sunday.
Earlier, the Royal Kings innings struggled to break the shackles in the PowerPlay against some tight bowling from M. Siddharth and R. Sai Kishore with no boundaries in the first four overs.
Aparajith (33) gave the innings some momentum and cut loose in the fifth over hitting R. Alexander for a boundary through covers before pulling him for a maximum, over long-on. Just when he was looking good for a big one, Sandeep Warrier (2/20) removed him caught at midwicket mistiming a pull.
Nellai Royal Kings 140 in 20 overs (B. Aparajith 33, M. Siddharth 2/14, Sandeep Warrier 2/20, R. Sonu Yadav 2/33) lost to Chepauk Super Gillies 141/5 in 19.2 overs (R. Sai Kishore 43, M. Kaushik Gandhi 40, R. Sathish 31 n.o., M. Karthick 3/14, Athisayaraj Davidson 2/21).
The Super Gillies pacers used the back of a length and short-pitch stuff to good effect with Warrier then dismissing the dangerous R. Sanjay Yadav similarly, with a well-directed bouncer that the batter edged to the keeper and the innings faltered from there on
.Later, M. Shahjahan (25, 13b, 3×6) chipped in with a cameo including two sixes off the last over against Sonu Yadav to help his side to a decent total.
Nellai, who won six of the seven league matches, has now lost the last two matches and will take on Lyca Kovai Kings on Friday in the second qualifier.