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Manimaran Siddharth shines as Tamil Nadu wins it’s second Syed Mushtaq Ali title

It was a case for second time lucky for Tamil Nadu as the Dinesh Karthik led side, riding on the destructive bowling from spinner Manimaran Siddharth, won the final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) 2021 against Baroda by seven wickets at the Sardar Patel Stadium Stadium, Motera. Siddarth, playing his first game of the SMAT 2021 took the Baroda team off guard and picked up four wickets to break the back of Kedar Devdhar’s team’s batting line up. 

Siddarth, who was awarded the Man of the Match for his 4/20 match-winning performance, said, “I just wanted to keep it simple for the team and it paid off. I'm glad it paid off. I've been working hard on my variations. My arm ball always gives me wickets and I just go with it.”

Chasing a small but testing target of 121, the men in yellow started it cautiously and added 26 in the first four overs before Narayan Jagadeesan, the highest run-scorer of this season, was trapped by Lukman Meriwala short ball. Baba Aparajit then played it to the plan anchoring one end as Hari Nishant kept the scoreboard running before he got out against the run of play on a Babashafi Pathan’s delivery. Skipper Dinesh Karthik then combined with Aparajith to finish the game in a hurry. 

The two added 34 runs in which Karthik’s share was of 22. In an attempt to increase the flow of runs he mistimed a pull shot to give Atit Seth his first strike. Shahrukh Khan then did what has been doing in this tournament, finish the game in a hurry. With his quickfire 18 off seven balls, Tamil Nadu finished the game in the 18t over itself with Aparajith unbeaten on 29 off 35. 

Skipper Karthik was delighted with the win especially after a one-run loss against Karnataka. He praised the team and said that hopped that much like T Natarajan and Washington Sundar, who have made it to team India, more of Tamil Nadu cricketers would reach higher levels. 

“It really hurt us last year, we lost by a whisker. This year we had our sights on the knockouts and then we got consistent. It's the sign of a good team. I think just the fact that there are players like Natarajan and Sundar in the Indian team, who were in this team last year, is the sign of a team doing well. I'm sure there are a few who'll go on from this team as well.” 

“I think our support staff has done a great job. The assistant coach Prasanna, he and I do all the strategy work,’ he added thanking the support staff for their work behind the scenes in keeping the team ready for all the matches. 

Earlier in the evening, winning the toss, Tamil Nadu decided to bowl first. His decision wasn’t a surprise, but the way he operated his bowlers hit like a great shock to Baroda who did not seem prepared for it. One after another Karthik kept on introducing spin bowlers and they kept on chipping away with the wickets. 

With Siddarth four wickets and a total of six wickets down for 36, Vishnu Solanki, the hero from the quarter-finals for the Baroda team, got into a partnership with Atit Seth and the duo added 58 for the eighth wicket in 57 balls before Seth was removed by Sonu Yadav. 

Solanki, although missed his fifty as he was run out for 49 of 55 balls, but hit quite a few boundaries, including two Helicopter shot sixes to take 49 off the last four overs.  Bhargav Bhatt too hit a few lusty blows, in the end, to get Baroda to 120. Baroda reached from 36/6 to 120/9 and at the end of halfway mark, they would have taken it with both the hands. 

Kedar Devdhar, the Baroda skipper, who showed exemplary leadership in the entire tournament in the absence of full-time skipper Krunal Pandya, said, “I want to congratulate the TN team and also my team. Without our big players, we reached here. Win and loss is part of the game, we should be proud of this effort. The support staff and strength and conditioning guys, the assistant coach, the players, have all put in big efforts in the tournament. Once in a while you have days like this, it's alright. We'll take the positives from here.”

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Match Report: Sam Heazlett-powered Heat knock out Thunder en-route BBL Challenger

Riding on a superlative Sam Heazlett and reliable Jimmy Peirson, the Brisbane Heat have marched to the Challenger against the Perth Scorchers and knocked the Sydney Thunder out of the ongoing edition of the Big Bash League. Heazlett was adjudged player of the match for his career-best score of 74 not out while Pierson played the role of an anchor with complete perfection as the Brisbane Heat continued their journey towards the cup they last won way back in 2012. Heazlett was battling with lack of timing on 25-ball-19 when Marnus Labuschnage went back to the dugout in a controversial runout and the partnership between them had eaten too many balls and left a lot of work to be done in the last eight overs. The team from Queensland required 89 runs from the last 48 balls, and in the end, both Hezlett and Peirson accelerated in a perfectly executed manner to take the Heat home with five balls to spare. The Heat did not falter on when to take the ‘Power Surge’ like the Thunder who delayed the reinforcement and ultimately could not utilise it due to batsmen failing to see the larger picture of the game. The Heat’s batsmen in Peirson and Heazlett took the surge in the 16th over just when the duo started hitting their shots with perfect timing. The three overs preceding the surge in the 16th over yielded 41 runs with Hezlett sending the balls over the ropes thrice and Peirson supporting with one walloped to grass banks towards the square leg boundary. Once back in the rhythm of hitting big shots, Hezlett went on cue after taking the surge and belted Daniel Sams for three boundaries as the Thunder bowling attack was set to explode under pressure. A barrage of full tosses did not help the case as both Peirson and Heazlett kept on piling the balls over boundaries with pure cricketing shots. Two overs of power surge were utilised brutally for the Thunder as the duo kept the heat on the men in green and ultimately they needed a bit of magic to revive their fortunes in the game, which never arrived. The Thunder had it in their control till the wicket of Labuschagne when both him and Hezlett were getting bogged down in the absence of big hits. The duo could not quite go big in the middle overs as the Thunder’ spinners in Chirs Green and Tanveer Sangha choked them by denying any loose balls. Defending a middling target of 159, the Thunder had no option to get early wickets and Daniel Sams along with Brendan Doggett did not disappoint the team with two crucial wickets of Joe Denly and Chirs Lynn. The next two men at the crease—Labuschagne and Heazlett were struggling to find gaps and boundaries and the run rate kept on surging past 11 runs per over. Little did the Thunder know that Hezlett would redeem himself to his career-best score and will guide the team home by knocking them out of the competition. Earlier, the Brisbane Heat won the toss and elected to get the best out of the pitch at the Manuka Oval which offered pace and bounce to start with. For the Thunder though, batting first should not have been a setback with their openers Alex Hales and Usman Khwaja have been in superb form and Hales, in particular, has been extremely severe against the new ball. The script did not look unfamiliar, but the scenes that unravelled in the mandatory power play was exactly opposite from what the Thunder were hoping for. Khawaja looked bereft of touch as the Heat’s new-ball bowlers Xavier Bartlett and Mark Steketee made the new ball talk from either end. Bartlett almost got Khwaja out with the one that sung back into the left-hander but only to be denied by the umpire in one of the long list of howlers that the current edition of the Big Bash League has seen. Halfway into the mandatory power play, and more dangerous among the two—Hales was kept away from the strike as Khwaja struggled to rotate the strike with the field up inside the circle. Hales could play only one delivery in the first 12 balls, and the impact of lack of strike was telling as Hales could not get his timing right. He once edged and survived a missed opportunity while another attempt of breaking through the shackles led to his downfall. The next man in, Callum Fergusson kept the scoreboard going as he came hard against the leg-spin of Mitchell Swepson while Khwaja showed signs of coming back to his own with big shots against Lewis Gregory. The Heat’s skipper turned to an emerging sensation with leg-spin in Marnus Labuschagne and he carried his wicket-taking form with the wicket of Khwaja as the left-hander could not quite redeem himself from the sluggish innings. Sam Billings and Ferguson joined hands in efforts to resurrect the Thunder at the Manuka Oval as the Heat bowlers kept on their merry ways to tighten up things for the men in green. Billings looked in decent touch and did not let any loose balls go waste. Sam Billings should be credited for bringing the Thunder’s batting on track but his recklessness derailed the game for the Thunder as well. He was all over Ben Laughlin in the 15th over and the power surge was just around the corner, but the right-hander could not resist the temptation of making the most of Laughlin and in the end, he had the last laugh as a wicket of a set batsman around the power surge time would have hurt the men in green. The Thunder were not short of heroes though as Ben Cutting came and went berserk from the word go. He was at his usual best and dispatched anything pitched in his half. He was particularly thunderous against Morne Morkel who ironically was brought into the game through X-Factor substitution. Morkel was guilty of bowling short to the right-hander and Cutting cut loose to propel the Thunder to a total they could bank upon the bowling attack to defend and earn a place in the Challenger against Perth Scorchers.


PM Modi lauds India's win in Australia

The Indian cricket team created history after beating Australia in their own backyard to defend the Border-Gavaskar trophy. After being bundled out for 36 in the first Test of the four-match series, India made a strong comeback and etched wins in the second and fourth encounter while managed to conclude the third clash in a draw. The visitors faced a lot of injury concerns with players like Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari being ruled out during the series while R Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah were not fully fit to play the final match. The unavailability of the senior players saw youngsters like Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj coming up and anchoring India to a fine series win. PM Modi during his radio show ‘Mann Ki Baat’ lauded the team’s efforts. “This month, we got good news from the cricket pitch. After initial hiccups, the Indian team bounced back gloriously and won the series in Australia. Our team's hard work and teamwork was inspiring," PM Modi said during 'Mann Ki Baat'. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) thanked PM Modi for his words of appreciation and encouragement. “Thank you Shri @narendramodi ji for your appreciation and words of encouragement. #TeamIndia will do everything possible to keep the tricolour flying high. @imVkohli @ajinkyarahane88 @RaviShastriOfc @RishabhPant17 @Jaspritbumrah93 @ImRo45 @JayShah @SGanguly99 @ThakurArunS,” BCCI tweeted. The Indian team is presently sitting at the helm of the points table of the WTC and will now face England in the four-match series at home. The Test series begins on February 5 in Chennai.