Hyderabad Heroes 112 for 1 (Khaleel 54*, Rayudu 46*) beat Royal Bengal Tigers (McMillan 31, Sahabuddin 3-22, Reddy 3-22) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Craig McMillan, the Royal Bengal Tigers' captain, joked that the match was lost at the toss, but he will be hoping a similar performance on the field doesn't take place in their semi-final next week. Bengal, who despite consistent showings have failed to win an ICL tournament, were thoroughly outplayed in Ahmedabad by a Hyderabad Heroes outfit peaking at the right time to defend their title.
It was not just the toss that didn't go right for Bengal. Put in to bat, opening bowler Syed Sahabuddin got vital breakthroughs to reduce Bengal to 40 for 3. He struck once in each of his three overs, removing Deep Dasgupta, Hamish Marshall - the highest run-scorer in the tournament - and Rohan Gavaskar. He was unlucky not to have a fourth - a tough chance off McMillan was dropped at mid-off.
McMillan kept the score ticking with wickets falling at the other end, but fell for 31, nicking to wicketkeeper Ibrahim Khaleel a delivery that spun away from Nicky Boje. Hyderabad captain Chris Harris and Boje choked up the runs, but it was the strikes from left-arm spinner Inder Shekar Reddy that snuffed out any chances of a recovery.
Reddy dropped Rajiv Kumar off his first delivery, in the 13th over, but he made amends when the batsmen chose to take a quick single while Reddy rued the missed opportunity. The ball had only run along a few yards away from Reddy, who reacted quickly and threw the stumps down at the non-striker's end to dismiss Kumar.
After 15 overs, Bengal were at 78 for 5, with Lance Klusener curbing his attacking instincts to score 16 off 29. He decided to step up the pace, but after coming down the track against Reddy to hit a four, he was stumped off a wide aiming for a another boundary in the same over. Bengal lost more wickets as the lower order aimed to boost the total; Reddy picked up another one in the final over to bowl them out for 111.
With Jimmy Maher not playing the game, Hyderabad sent in Khaleel to start the chase along with Abdul Razzaq. Khaleel had not got too many opportunities with the bat in this tournament, but he used the chance to make an impression before the ICL India XI, for whom he performed splendidly last season, is picked for the upcoming World Series. Razaaq fell for 7 before Khaleel and Ambati Rayudu put on 101 runs to clinch a nine-wicket win.
Bengal's bowlers didn't have a decent score to defend and they also struggled a bit with the dew. Khaleel helped himself to a fifty, which included a breathtaking scoop to the fine-leg boundary and a six over long-on to reach the mark. Rayudu too scored briskly, sealing the comprehensive win with a big hit. Hyderabad could run into Bengal in the semi-final, not a worrisome prospect after this win.