Sathish helps TN seal a low-scoring thriller
Tamil Nadu 169 for 9 (Indrajith 48, Sathish 34*, B Kumar 3-25) beat Uttar Pradesh 168 (R Singh 60, Balaji 3-32) by 1 wicket
Allrounder R Sathish sealed a thrilling one-wicket win for Tamil Nadu to take them to their first Vijay Hazare semi-final in five years. At the start of the 41st over, Tamil Nadu needed seven runs with three wickets in hand, but Piyush Chawla struck twice to bring the last man in. Rahil Shah kept his head and handed the strike over to Sathish, who had shepherded the chase from an earlier crisis of 81 for 5.
When Chawla began that eventful over, Sathish and captain R Ashwin looked set for the win with their partnership having added 35 assured runs. It seemed a questionable move to hand Chawla the ball when the wreckers of the top order - Kumars Praveen and Bhuvneshwar - had overs left. Chawla, though, produced two special deliveries. With a slider he trapped Ashwin lbw, and with a big legbreak he took the edge of Aswin Crist. In between the two dismissals, Crist had eased the nerves somewhat with a cover drive for four. Rahil had to come in with three runs required.
On the fifth ball of the over, UP spread the field. They were prepared to concede the single, and have a go at the No. 11 in the next over, but Rahil got a full toss fifth ball, which he played to long leg to bring Tamil Nadu closer by one run. Now with one ball left, UP had two choices: invite the big hit and thus the risk by bringing the field up or keep the fielders back to keep the game alive for another over. They went for the latter, Chawla bowled short, and Sathish gladly accepted the single and retained strike.
Praveen bowled the 42nd over. He had started the defence of 168 with Dinesh Karthik's wicket in the first over. He had bowled seven unchanged overs in the company of Bhuvneshwar, who took three wickets, to reduce Tamil Nadu to 17 for 4. The Kumars had then seen the pressure they created slip away as M Vijay and B Indrajith, who added 64 for the fifth wicket against the back-up bowlers.
Now was the chance for Praveen to try to produce that one final bit of magic to tie the match, and have the winner decided by a coin toss. He nearly did so first ball with an accurate yorker. Sathish kept it out. He tried another yorker, which turned out to be a low full toss. Sathish hit it straight to mid-off. It was tense stuff. Sathish had battled hard before he had hit left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar for three straight fours in the 40th over to all but end the match. Now he was against a canny bowler with international experience. He was prepared to wait.
In the back of his mind was the past. "In many games in the past, I have got out during such scenarios and we have ended up losing," Sathish said later. "So this time I wanted to stay in the middle and make it count for my team."
The wait produced the right ball; a slower one that Praveen dragged too far down. Sathish pulled it over midwicket to end the match. It was his unbroken spell of 10-2-14-1 in the morning that had helped restrict UP, who had chosen to bat first on a pitch adjacent to the one used for the quarter-final a day ago. Sathish was introduced in the fourth over amid a manic early exchange: Ashwin used five bowlers in the first nine overs, Praveen was opening the batting and Crist surprised him by bowling round the wicket. Funky fields were employed, and three wickets fell in those nine overs. Those unorthodox measures were on view in the second innings as well when L Balaji was pushed up to No. 5.
In the absence of Suresh Raina, and with some unremarkable batting at the top, young Sarfaraz Khan was UP's big hope, coming in at 30 for 3. In the 11th over, though, he went for an ambitious single and was run out to make it 38 for 4. Had he dived he would have made it to the striker's end, something experience should teach him as he heads to Bangladesh for the Under-19 World Cup. Umang Sharma then swept Ashwin straight to square leg in his first over, and Akshdeep Nath fell lbw to Balaji to make it 79 for 6 in the 26th over.
Not for the first time Chawla rescued the UP batting with a dour 66-run partnership with Rinku Singh, the left-hand batsman who produced his fourth fifty in just his seventh List A game. The two took UP's innings deep, but couldn't provide the finishing kick. They failed to face the quota of 50 overs, and that final finishing kick went missing even when they bowled later.
For Tamil Nadu it is sweet success after the early ouster in Ranji Trophy and the devastation caused by the floods in their state. "The presence of Ashwin and Vijay has helped a lot," Sathish said. "They are coming straight from the South Africa series, and they have given their full effort and that's a motivation for the players.
"We were charged up right from the league game. Close games like these do happen. We lost a game against Punjab despite being in a good situation and Ashwin was there with us even in that match, backing the players."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo