Tirunelveli, Sep 17: Albert Tuti Patriots became the first finalists of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) Twenty20 tournament 2016 as they defeated Dindigul Dragons by 38 runs at the India Cements Limited Ground, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli, on Friday (September 16).
Bolstered by the return of Dinesh Karthik and Abhinav Mukund, Patriots notched up their 4th win a row to book their place for the finals in Chennai. They will face Chepauk Super Gillies or Lyca Kovai Kings, who will play the 2nd semi-final today (September 17).
Patriots, batting first after winning the toss, looked to attack right from the beginning of their innings. Mukund donned the aggressor's role, as he sweetly timed and placed his shots through gaps.
Kaushik Gandhi, who was in great form, was the first to go after he gave a catch to Sunny Kumar Singh (3 for 34) at backward point, trying to clear the covers. SP Nathan was promoted to one down, which made the Patriots' intention clear.
After sharing a brief partnership with Mukund (91), Nathan fell while trying to chase a wide delivery off M Ashwin.
Captain Dinesh Karthik (48) later joined Mukund in the middle and both of them took the game away from Dragons.
Both batsmen played intelligent shots and were aggressive in their approach.
Mukund notched up his first fifty of the tournament as he kept playing powerful drives.
Karthik took on MS Sanjay as he smashed the left-arm bowler for three consecutive sixes before being castled for a well-made 48 off 31 deliveries.
The left-right combination shared a partnership of 95 runs in 56 deliveries, and the middle-order came to life for Patriots - something they missed after the opening game against Chepauk Super Gillies.
Mukund looked set to get the second century of the tournament, but T Natarajan, diving from long off, ended his innings at 91, with a great catch.
Patriots' batting was good when it mattered the most and that helped them to finish on their highest total in the tournament so far.
Dragons' chase started well with N Jagadeesan (59) taking responsibility early on. He was lucky, twice, when he was dropped on 0 and 3, both times by Aswin Crist (2 for 25).
With Jagadeesan holding one end firmly, he needed good support from the other end. But a triple-over maiden from Washington Sundar turned the match on its head. It didn't stop Jagadeesan from going after the Patriots bowlers though.
He and Ashwin Venkataraman (40) added 56 runs off 39 deliveries to revive Dragons' run-chase. But Crist later stuck with the all-important wicket of Jagadeesan.
Ashwin V fell soon when he top-edged Crist's delivery to wicket-keeper Karthik.
Patriots had a firm hold of the match and had one leg in the finals when Subramaniya Siva fell trying to hit Aushik Srinivas out of the park.
The middle-order of Dragons was not tested throughout the tournament - an area which hurt the team today, when they were chasing a huge total.
With the required run-rate soaring, Dragons couldn't get going as Patriots continued to bowl tight. Patriots notched up a clinical win and eventually got the combination right when it mattered the most.
Brief scores: Albert Tuti Patriots 187 for 7 (Abhinav Mukund 91, 55b, 10x4, 1x6, Dinesh Karthik 48, 31b, 1x4, 4x6, Sunny Kumar Singh 3/34, Yazh Arun Mozhi 1/19) beat Dindigul Dragons 149 for 8 (N Jagadeesan 59, 41b, 7x4, 1x6, Ashwin V 40, 26b, 3x4, 2x6, Washington Sundar 4/23, Aswin Crist 2/25) by 38 runs.