Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Karnataka 146 for 1 (Agarwal 69*, Rahul 52*) beat Tamil Nadu 252 (Abhinav 85, Aparajith 66, Vijay Shankar 38, Mithun 5-34, Koushik 2-39) by 60 runs (VJD method)
Mithun took his first five-wicket haul in List A cricket and finished off Tamil Nadu's innings by becoming the first from Karnataka to take a hat-trick in the competition. He ended with 5 for 34 in 9.5 overs, as Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 252 at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Rain halted Karnataka's chase at 23 overs, but they had waltzed to 146 for 1 by then, well ahead of the VJD par score of 86, with Agarwal batting on 69 off 55 balls. KL Rahul was in the middle with Agarwal, on a sedate 52 not out off 72 balls, as Tamil Nadu's bowlers were sent on a leather hunt.
The win was set up by the Mithun-led bowling performance, which reined Tamil Nadu in each time they looked like they had a launchpad. They still got more than any team had against Karnataka batting first in this year's competition, but it was far from enough.
Mithun had struck the first blow after Manish Pandey won an important toss and chose to field, by removing M Vijay for a duck in the first over. He got his second wicket only in the 46th over, Karun Nair plucking a fine catch at long-on, keeping his balance and holding the ball behind him, when Vijay Shankar couldn't get enough elevation to clear him. It was an important strike, with Tamil Nadu looking to build momentum in the final overs through Vijay Shankar and semi-final hero Shahrukh Khan.
In the final over of the innings, Mithun wiped out Shahrukh, M Mohammed and M Ashwin, all caught on the off-side trying to hit big, but not connecting well enough.
It capped a fine start for the medium-pacer to what could be a tricky season. R Vinay Kumar, his long-time new-ball partner, is now with Puducherry and that left Mithun as the leader of Karnataka's attack. Moreover, the team was also without Prasidh Krishna, their quickest bowler, who had picked up a side strain in the quarter-final.
Mithun carried the burden of being the senior pro well, and emerged as Karnataka's highest wicket-taker of the tournament with 20 scalps at an average of 14.55 and an economy rate of 3.93.
"Prasidh wasn't there in the team, so as a senior, I had to take the responsibility for the team. At the end, hard work paid off," Mithun said after the match. "When we go into a match, everyone knows what they need to do, so there's very less for me to tell them. If they need anything, I go and talk to them."
He didn't need to say much on Friday either, partnering with V Koushik to ensure the advantage of winning the toss was capitalized on. The ball has nipped around consistently at this venue in the first hour, and Tamil Nadu were kept quiet for the most part.
They had their best phase when Abhinav Mukund (85 off 110) and B Aparajith (66 off 84) got together to put on 124 runs in 23 overs for the third wicket, but once Abhinav fell, they stumbled from 148 for 2 to 193 for 5. Vijay Shankar (38 off 35) and Shahrukh (27 off 23) provided the thrust that took Tamil Nadu past 250, but Mithun's late strikes meant they ended with a total that was only competitive, rather than the imposing one they had threatened.
Dinesh Karthik opened with his offspinners, R Ashwin and Washington Sundar, but Rahul and Devdutt Padikkal got off to a brisk start in the chase. Sundar rattled Padikkal's stumps in the fifth over with one that went straight through with the angle from around the wicket, but curiously, Ashwin was taken out of the attack after that.
Karthik later reasoned that he wanted to give his pacers a go since it was overcast and the left-handed Padikkal had gotten out, but as it would turn out, Ashwin bowled no more than the two overs he had at the start with rain ending the game early.
Agarwal, meanwhile, was imperious from the start. Off his sixth ball, he drove Vijay Shankar over the extra-cover boundary with barely any follow-through. It was the sort of shot you could have predicted would go for six even if you had your eyes closed - merely by listening to the crack the ball made while leaving bat. There was almost a boundary an over after that, with Agarwal executing similarly stunning drives and pulls.
Agarwal's cantering pace allowed Rahul to take his time, and he in turn brought up his half-century with a gorgeous straight drive off what turned out to be the penultimate ball of the match.
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