Tirunelveli, July 29: Fast bowler R Silambarasan and batsmen Baba Aparajith and Suresh Lokeshwar essayed key roles to help VB Kanchi Veerans upstage defending champions Madurai Panthers by seven wickets in the Tamil Nadu Twenty20 Premier League (TNPL) at the India Cements Limited- Sankar Nagar ground, Tirunelveli.
After Madurai won the toss and decided to bat first, their batsmen found the going tough once Silambarasan came into the attack. The 26-year-old from Cuddalore broke the back of Panthers' innings claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in TNPL (4-0-17-5) to restrict their rivals to 138-9 in 20 overs.
Veerans' captain Aparajith and diminutive wicketkeeper batsman Lokeshwar ensured Silambarasan's efforts didn't go to waste by putting together the highest partnership of the match. They raised 80 runs in 66 balls for the third wicket to take the game away from Panthers.
Aparajith hit five fours in his 41-ball 44 while Lokeshwar strung his second fifty plus score this season and remained unbeaten. The former Under-19 Tamil Nadu captain, who had scored 51 against Kovai Kings, struck six fours in his 42-ball 51. Senior pro of the side, Rajagopal Sathish (22 not out in 11 balls, 3 fours) provided the finishing touches as VBKV collected 19 runs from the penultimate over to seal the game. They finished on 141-3 to record their second successive victory that puts them on the second position in the eight-team standings.
The victory also put an end to the trend of teams winning after batting first here. Overall, teams batting first have logged more victories (nine) than the team batting second (three).
Silambarasan mixed the slow deliveries well to put the brakes on SMP innings. Coming into to bowl in the 13th over with the SMP score reading 83-2, he made an immediate impact by claiming their captain and top-scorer Shijit Chandran (39 off 36 balls, 6 fours).
The 33-year-old, who took the captaincy reins from KB Arun Karthick, was dropped twice when he was on 13 and 18 - both caught and bowled chances - off medium-pacer Sathish Rajagopal and left-arm spinner NS Harish. He also survived a stumping chance on 25 off Sathish when he missed a quicker delivery. Wicketkeeper Lokeshwar also missed it completely with the batsman well outside his crease.
Silambarasan finally ended Chandran's tenure with the batsman holing out in the deep. He dented Madurai's chances further by claiming a wicket in every over before ending his spell with a double strike. It was the second five-wicket haul of the tournament following Chepauk Super Gillies' Ramadoss Alexandar's 5-9 at the same venue against Ruby Trichy Warriors last week.
The Panthers' innings was largely built on two partnerships of 40 runs each for the second and third wickets. Chandran was the central character in both, stringing alliances with opener A Sarathraj (17 off 14 balls, 1 four, 1 six) and then Kousik (22 off 23 balls, 1 four, 1 six).
Karthick's decision to opt out of captaincy to focus on his batting did not go well in this game. He played out a maiden off left-arm pacer Rangaraj Suthesh in the first over of the match and was out in the next over, slicing fast bowler Gowtham Thamarai Kannan to short third man, for 1.
Brief scores: Madurai Panthers: 138-9 in 20 overs (Shijith Chandran 39, Jagatheesan Kousik 22, Abhishek Tanwar 19; R Sathish 2-22, R Silambarasan 5-17) lost to VB Kanchi Veerans: 141-3 in 19 overs (Baba Aparajith 44, Suresh Lokeshwar 51not out, Rajagopal Sathish 22 not out; Jagatheesan Kousik 1-19) by 7 wickets.