The finish was explosive. And the Dindigul Dragons breathed fire.
Its onslaught towards the end of the innings, blasting 73 runs in five overs, was the decisive phase of the contest.
The up-beat Dragons, defending 175, outplayed Siechem Madurai Panthers by 45 runs at the NPR College ground to enter the final of Sankar Cement-TNPL here on Tuesday.
The side, without its captain R. Ashwin and led by N. Jagadeesan, got another thing right. The important aspect of defending totals is picking wickets and the Dragons did just that under floodlights.
Dangerman K.B. Arun Karthick, done in by change of pace, was held in the deep off paceman R. Rohit. This was a huge moment.
Opener Sarath Raj was landing some hefty blows but was foxed and bowled by a fizzy googly from leg-spinner M. Abhinav.
With the asking rate climbing, the battling J. Kousik, a big hitter, was picked up at long-on off left-arm spinner M. Silambarasan, who varied his trajectory cleverly.
Even the influential Abhishek Tanwar found the going tough — the pitch too slowed down — and played on to paceman Adithya Arun.
Earlier the Panthers bowlers, unable to execute plans and getting key deliveries wrong, lost the plot in the end overs after Dragons won the toss.
Known for his organised batting rooted in sound defence, N.S. Chaturved showed a remarkable transformation in his approach, blitzing a 13-ball 35.
He swung seamer Kiran Akash for six and then smoked the bowler down the ground for the maximum.
M. Mohammed, a paceman who is also a compelling striker of the ball, launched a brutal onslaught on the Panthers attack, slashing and clubbing Tanwar over long-on for sixes.
His nine-ball unbeaten 32 left the Panthers gasping for breath. Akash, now the highest wicket-taker in this TNPL with 17, also took a pounding,
Well begun is half done they say and the opening pair has been Dragons’ strength. The right-left combination of Jagadeesan (50, 46b, 3×4, 2×6) and Hari Nishaanth (51, 46b, 3×4, 2×6) fed off each other, disrupting bowlers’ line and combining solidity with enterprise.
On Tuesday, the pair strung together its third century partnership of this TNPL, first building a platform and then launching into the bowling.
The surface at the NPR College ground had something for the seamers early on but the two openers batted well in this period before launching into more expansive strokes.
Skipper in the absence of R. Ashwin, Jagadeesan continued to collect runs with his bat-speed, ability to pick length and then find the gaps.
The grace and flow in southpaw Nishaanth is hard to miss. So is the free and lovely swing of the willow although he does not ground the bat in his stance. A straight six off seamer Lokesh Raj was a top shot. He was named Man of the Match.
The scores: Dindigul Dragons 175 for six in 20 overs (N. Jagadeesan 50, Hari Nishaanth 51, N.S. Chaturved 35, M. Mohammed 32 not out, Kiran Akash two for 44) bt Siechem Madurai Panthers 130 in 19.5 overs (Sarath Raj 32, J. Kousik 40, R. Rohit three for 20, M. Silambarasan three for 18, M. Abhinav two for 18).