After close to three weeks of league-style competition spread over two stages, the business end of Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament is here. The semifinals will be played at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium here on Friday.
The stakes are high and big reinforcements in the form of Mayank Agarwal for Karnataka and R. Ashwin for Tamil Nadu have arrived with the duo wasting no time to hit the nets within hours of reaching. Dinesh Karthik-led Tamil Nadu takes on Rajasthan and would want to continue its good run in white-ball cricket having topped its group.
TN will start as the favourite but with the match starting at 6.30 pm, the toss will become a crucial factor as the side chasing is bound to have an advantage as dew could affect the team bowling second. It is an area where Rajasthan can neutralise a spin-heavy TN attack.
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During its loss to Karnataka last week, the TN bowlers found it difficult to hold the ball while defending. On Thursday, TN went the extra mile in its preparation by shunning nets and instead opting to practice on the centre wicket at the C.B. Patel stadium. Spinners R. Sai Kishore and Hari Nishanth practised with wet balls, while the batsmen used the time for big-hitting targeting specific areas in the field.
For Rajasthan, skipper Deepak Chahar along with his fast bowlers Khaleel Ahmed and Aniket Choudhary need to take advantage of TN’s opening woes and get quick wickets before leg-spinner Rahul Chahar can apply the squeeze in the middle overs.
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In the other semifinal, Karnataka takes on Haryana and both teams have had a similar path to the semifinals with a loss each in the league and Super League stage. Karnataka, who won the Vijay Hazare trophy, though has the edge with its explosive batting line up in the form of openers Devdutt Padikkal, K.L. Rahul who have given big starts in most matches followed by the likes of Agarwal, skipper Manish Pandey and Karun Nair.
K. Gowtham’s return in the last match against Mumbai was a welcome sign as the off-spinner can open the attack and cover-up for the pacers, who have leaked runs. Haryana will rely upon its spin trio of Yuzvendra Chahal, Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav to set the game up while the batting will largely be dependent on Shivam Chauhan.