For three quarters of Tamil Nadu’s innings, Kerala had things under control. But the host wasn’t prepared for a late assault from a rookie player and bungled its bowling at the death as it lost the opening match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy by 37 runs here on Friday.
M. Mohammed had made a total of just 33 runs in his previous 11 T20 games, but against Kerala he scored 34 off 11 balls to help the team post a sizeable score.
Put in, Tamil Nadu was labouring towards a moderate total when Mohammed walked in and treated the Kerala medium-pacers with disdain. Basil Thampi bore the brunt of his fury, going for 21 runs in his final over.
Captain Robin Uthappa’s worst fears came true as Tamil Nadu amassed 80 runs in the last five overs to set Kerala a challenging target of 175 runs. Kerala medium-pacers Thampi and K.M. Asif dismissed the Tamil Nadu openers M. Vijay (1) and N. Jagadeesan (8) cheaply.
The bowling was disciplined as B. Aparajith and captain Dinesh Karthik found it hard to score runs fluently in their 56-run third-wicket stand.
The advent of Sharukh Khan, after Apararjith retired hurt, changed the momentum towards the visitors. Sharukh put the rival bowlers under pressure with his big hits.
Poor death bowling
In the death overs, Kerala was ordinary and Mohammed feasted on the wayward bowling to become an unlikely hero.
Kerala never threatened in its chase after Robin Uthappa (9) fell early trying to clear the infield and spooned a catch to T. Natarajan off G. Periyasamy.
Vishnu Vinod and Rohan Kunnummal scored a few boundaries, but Kerala was always behind the run-rate. A full-toss from Mohammed accounted for the dangerous Vishnu Vinod (18) whose pull landed in the safe hands of Natarajan at mid-wicket.
Both Rohan and Sachin Baby were tied down by accurate bowling from the Tamil Nadu spinners and as the run-rate crept up, the batsmen tried extravagant shots, only to perish.
Left-arm medium-pacer Natarajan took three wickets in his second spell as Kerala lost its last five wickets for just 14 runs to finish at 137 for eight.