Aparajith revealed it was a difficult pitch to bat on.
Chennai, August 3: Baba Aparajith led from the front to keep Nellai Royal Kings hopes alive in the Shriram Capital Tamil Nadu Premier League as they registered a morale-boosting five-wicket victory over last season finalists Dindigul Dragons at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Tuesday.
Chasing 148 for victory, Aparajith anchored the Nellai innings superbly as they finished on 148 for 5 in 18.5 overs. The 27-year-old captain scored an elegant 44 off 42 balls (5 fours, 1 six) before he was brilliantly caught by pacer Lakshminarayanan Vignesh off his own bowling.
Baba Aparajith steps up
Aparajith first put on 35 runs off 31 balls with opener Laksmesha Surya Prakash (18 off 14 balls, 3 fours) for the first wicket and followed it up with a 62-run alliance off 49 balls with Pradosh Ranjan Paul (27 off 29 balls, 2 fours) to set the game up nicely for Nellai.
All-rounder Sanjay Yadav provided the finishing touches with an attacking 31 off 15 balls (2 fours, 3 sixes).
Nellai’s win saw them become the fifth team to finish with five points but they are still placed sixth, ahead of iDream Tiruppur Tamizhans (-1.109) due to a negative net run rate (-0.787). The other three teams ahead of Nellai are Siechem Madurai Panthers (+1.170), Chepauk Super Gillies (+0.530), and Lyca Kovai Kings (+0.237).
Fast bowler Vignesh (2-20) did create a flutter in the Nellai ranks by dismissing Aparajith and Pradosh Rajan Paul but Yadav stood in the way.
While revelling in the win, Aparajith revealed it was a difficult pitch to bat on. “It was a very important win because it was not an easy wicket, it was assisting spinners and was slightly on the slower side,” he said.
The Nellai captain admitted there was pressure on his team to deliver as they were languishing at the bottom of the table going into this game. “To be very honest there was pressure but we thought if we took the pressure it wouldn’t work for us, so we decided to enjoy every game. We had three games and if we were to win all of them, we would qualify but if we think about that we are not going to win. That would have been like thinking too far ahead and we just wanted to stay in the present,” he said.
Earlier, Rajhamany Srinivasan struck a fluent 60 off 48 balls (5 fours, 2 sixes) and wicketkeeper Mani Bharathy hit 30 off 24 balls (3 fours, 1 six) to help Dindigul post 147-5 in 20 overs. When wicketkeeper Bharathy joined Srinivasan, Dindigul were in trouble at 2-8 in the third over. But they put their heads down to defy the rival attack by raising 85 runs off 63 balls for the third wicket. The 36-year-old Srinivasan played the guiding hand in this alliance which was broken when Bharathy was stumped by Baba Indrajith off left-arm spinner Sanjay Yadav (1-28).
All-rounder Vivek Raj too chipped in with a useful 32 not out off 23 balls (2 sixes), putting on 29 runs off 17 runs for the unbeaten fifth wicket with S Swaminathan (3 not out).
Athisayaraj Davidson makes crucial breakthroughs
Fast bowler Athisayaraj Davidson stood tall in the Nellai bowling attack claiming two wickets for 23 runs to swell his tally in the tournament to 47 wickets.
A dejected Srinivasan, however, remained optimistic of Dindigul’s chances despite the fact that they have just one match left in the league against Tiruppur to make the playoffs. “It’s very disappointing, being on the losing end. The next game against the Tiruppur Tamizhans is a must-win game for us, hopefully, we will come back well,” he said.
Dindigul Dragons 147-5 in 20 overs (R Srinivasan 60, Mani Bharathi 30, R Vivek 32*; Athisayaraj Davidson 2-23, NS Harish 1-25, Sanjay Yadav 1-28) lost to Nellai Royal Kings 148-5 in 18.5 overs (Baba Aparajith 44, Sanjay Yadav 31, Pradosh Rajan Paul 27; R Suthesh 2-34, L Vignesh 2-20, S Swaminathan 1-9) by 5 wickets.