The finals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy are all set as last year's runner-ups Tamil Nadu lock horns against Baroda.
Tamil Nadu restricted Rajasthan to 154 in the semifinals. M Mohammed was the pick of the bowlers taking 4 wickets for 24 runs. He was well-supported by Sai Kishore who scalped two wickets conceding 16 runs.
Placed in a tricky position at 69-3 in the 10th over, Arun Karthik hit a sparkling knock of 89 along with skipper, Dinesh Karthik who smashed a 17-ball 26 as Tamil Nadu chased down the total successfully.
On the other hand, Baroda who were put in to bat first scored 160 runs. Kedar Devdhar led from the front with a fine knock of 64 and Karthik Kakade became an unlikely hero with the bat hitting 53 off 41 balls. Before this match, Karthik had not scored a single run in domestic T20 cricket.
Lukman Meriwala removed the Punjab openers while Ninad Rathva took two crucial middle-order wickets as Punjab lost by 25 runs despite Mandeep Singh scoring 42 batting with a shoulder injury.
Tamil Nadu can consider including G Periyaswamy for the final instead of Aswin Crist. Aswin who came in place of Sandeep Warrier in the semis was expensive with the ball giving away 29 runs in two overs.
Baroda has defied the odds to reach the finals. Despite missing the services of key players like the Pandya brothers and Deepak Hooda, they have found new heroes in every match.
Pitch and Conditions
Out of 6 matches played in the knockouts so far in the newly constructed Motera Stadium, 4 have been won by the chasing side. Dew will make chasing tough on this pitch that slows down making batsmen struggling to find runs, especially in the death overs. There is no chance of any rain during the match.
Probable Playing XI
Tamil Nadu (TN): C Hari Nishanth, Narayan Jagadeesan, Baba Aparajith, Arun Karthik, Dinesh Karthik (wk & c), R Sonu Yadav, Shahrukh Khan, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, M Mohammed, Murugan Ashwin, Aswin Crist/G Periyaswamy
Baroda (BRD): Kedar Devdhar(c), Ninad Rathva, Vishnu Solanki, Karthik Kakade, Atit Sheth, Smit Patel, Abhimanyu Rajput, Bhanu Pania, Babashafi Pathan, Lukman Meriwala, Bhargav Bhatt
Arun Karthik (Tamil Nadu) vs Lukman Meriwala (Baroda)
Arun was declared the man of the match for his pulsating 89. He was in fantastic touch right from the first ball attacking the spinners. He was earlier representing Assam and Kerala in domestic cricket before returning to his home side. He is a proven chase master with a penchant for chasing down big totals and can play a variety of shots both off the front foot and the back foot.
Meriwala has been the spearhead of Baroda's bowling attack. He had a great outing with the ball in the semis against Punjab taking three wickets for 28 runs including a maiden over. Lukman is dangerous with the new ball and can make the breakthroughs at the start. When Baroda won the 2013-14 SMAT trophy, the left-arm pacer was the highest wicket-taker.
M. Mohammed (Tamil Nadu) vs Karthik Kakade (Baroda)
Promoted up the batting order in a surprise move, Karthik repaid the team's faith hitting a valuable 53 as he helped his side post a competitive total. He can clear the boundaries with ease. Since Kakade keeps the scoreboard ticking, he can be a game-changer.
Mohammed scalped 4 wickets against Rajasthan in the semifinals. The 29-year-old's medium-pace can trouble batsmen who love to play freely. He has a lot of variations up his sleeve that can be handy, especially in the death overs.
Tamil Nadu will look to get the hands-on the elusive trophy after falling agonizingly short in the finals against Karnataka last year. They need to improve their fielding which has been quite ordinary. Baroda will start as the under-dogs but should not be considered lightly as they can beat any side on their day by punching above their weight.
Cricwizz predicts Tamil Nadu to win the match and claim the SMAT T20 2021 title