Clinical Tamil Nadu storm to second successive title
Tamil Nadu 379 for 6 (Vijay 103, Karthik 88, Mukund 75) beat Bengal 350 for 8 (Goswami 81, Ganguly 74, Ganapathy 3-63) by 29 runs
It was deja vu again for Bengal as Tamil Nadu stormed to their second successive Vijay Hazare Trophy title, with a thumping win at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera. Having been outgunned by the same opposition last year in Agartala, Bengal were hoping for a change in fortunes in their third successive final. But with Murali Vijay, Dinesh Karthik and last year's tormentor Abhinav Mukund taking full toll of a below-par bowling display, Bengal's hopes had dimmed even before they went about the chase.
With brisk scoring dominating the Tamil Nadu run-feast, captain Karthik looked to have made the right decision, opting to bat. The display of might was reminiscent of South Africa's dominance in the third ODI against India at the same venue three days earlier, when they piled up 365 for 2.
Opener Srikkanth Aniruddha kick-started the innings with a quick 52, putting on 85 with Vijay, who made the most this time with a steady approach after managing just 25 against South Africa. He took the baton from Aniruddha and opened up once he had gone past his half-century. At the receiving end were the slower bowlers Soumya Pakre and Manoj Tiwary. But after clubbing Pakre for a six and a four off the first two deliveries of the 34th over and bringing up his century in the process, he miscued the third to hand Tiwary a difficult catch.
If Bengal thought the storm was over, they were put under the cosh by Mukund, who had scored a match-winning 118 in the previous final, and Karthik. Mukund hit 75 off 71 balls, including five fours and two sixes, but Karthik proved to be the show-stealer. He was merciless in his approach, toying with the Bengal bowlers and smashing 11 fours and three sixes en route to a 47-ball 88. The hurricane had taken them 14 runs ahead of South Africa's score.
Bengal began confidently as well, with opener Shreevats Goswami and Sourav Ganguly adding 120 for the second wicket. Both scored fine half-centuries as Bengal looked set for a real contest. However, the platform was squandered, as the pressure of scoring quickly weighed heavy on the middle order. Yo Mahesh flourished during the period, picking up three wickets to set them back further. Chandrasekar Ganapathy, too, managed a three-wicket haul and there was also some stellar fielding on display, with Rajagopal Satish pulling off four catches. Anustup Majumdar managed a fighting 66 lower down the order, but the enormity of the task meant Bengal's wait for silverware would continue longer.
Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla blamed poor bowling and fielding for the loss. "When they made 379, the match was as good as over," Shukla told the Telegraph. "A score of around 335 to 340 could have still been chased on such a batting beauty. It baffles me how we keep losing in the title round everytime.
"I'm really upset in the manner we bowled and fielded. Our two strike bowlers, Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda, couldn't provide us with the breakthroughs. Also, the batting Powerplay cost us dear."