The first two quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021-22 turned out to be one-sided affairs. Tamil Nadu thrashed arch-rivals Karnataka by 151 runs and moved one step closer to their sixth title, while Himachal Pradesh defeated Uttar Pradesh by five wickets to confirm their place in the semifinals.
The Tamil Nadu batting line-up fired on all cylinders at KL Saini Ground, Jaipur, amassing a massive total of 354/8 in their 20 overs. N Jagadeesan scored a stunning century, while R Sai Kishore and Shahrukh Khan hit contrasting half-centuries. In reply, Karnataka surprisingly threw in the towel very quickly and never looked in the game.
In the other encounter, Himachal restricted Uttar Pradesh to just 207/9 at Sawai Mansingh Stadium and then hunted down the total with more than four overs to spare. Prashant Chopra missed out on a century by just one run, but along with Nikhil Gangta, didn’t allow UP to make any sort of comeback in the second half. This is the first time Himachal got the better of UP in the history of Vijay Hazare Trophy and have made it through to the semis only for the second time.
Galetiya’s stunning new-ball spell
"The first hour should be important and we will try to take advantage of it," said Himachal skipper Rishi Dhawan after electing to bowl first. There was a lot of grass on the surface at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium and Vinay Galetiya made the most of it. The 29-year-old bowled 10 overs on the trot and finished with figures of 3/19. The right-arm seamer kept bringing the ball in and got rid of Aryan Juyal, Karan Sharma and Sameer Rizvi to reduce Uttar Pradesh to 39/4 inside 15 overs.
Vinay Galetiya's superb 3/19 against Uttar Pradesh 👍 👍— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) December 21, 2021
The Himachal Pradesh medium pacer set the ball rolling for his side in #QF1 of the #VijayHazareTrophy. 👌 👌 #HPvUP
Watch his three wickets 🎥 🔽https://t.co/cij7Ai03Qz pic.twitter.com/YJ5JvR7sAE
UP openers Abhishek Goswami and Juyal got four boundaries inside six overs and put on 29 runs for the first wicket before Sidharth Sharma drew the first blood for Himachal. Goswami was trapped right in front of the stumps after scoring 17, and that's when Galetiya wreaked havoc by constantly targeting the stumps. Young wicketkeeper-batter Juyal (24-ball 9) tried to charge down the track but got knocked over by a superb inswinger. Meanwhile, UP skipper Karan (0) and Rizvi (5) were dismissed lbw. Akshdeep Nath and Rinku Singh then simply played out Galetiya, and the pressure was once again on them to revive UP’s innings.
Rinku, Akshdeep, Bhuvneshwar, come to the rescue
Two of UP’s highest run-getters in the history of Vijay Hazare Trophy, Akshdeep and Rinku were forced to bat with a sedate approach after the top-order once again failed to make any impact. The duo operated at a scoring rate of less than three in the first 26 overs before Mayank Dagar was introduced into the attack. There was no turn on offer for the left-arm spinner and the two batters smashed three boundaries in his first two overs to break the shackles.
The duo put on 64 runs for the fifth wicket before debutant Sidharth was brought into the attack and the right-arm seamer had Akshdeep (65-ball 32) caught at mid-off. Playing his first List A game, Sidharth claimed two wickets and conceded only 27 runs in his 10 overs. However, Rinku was still around and the left-handed batter brought up his fifth 50-plus score of the season. He found an able ally in Bhuvneshwar Kumar who brought out all his experience and added 75 runs with Rinku.
The latter smashed six fours in his 102-ball 76 before falling to Pankaj Jaiswal (2/43) in the 47th over. Meanwhile, Bhuvneshwar batted with a lot more fluency and crafted three fours and a six in his 52-ball 46. Having played some similar knocks for India, Bhuvneshwar kept the scoreboard moving with ones and two before smoking Dhawan for a six in the final over of the innings. Having managed only 142 in the first 40 overs, Uttar Pradesh scored 65 runs in the final 10 overs.
A steady run-chase
Their bowlers had done the job and the onus was now on the Himachal batters to make sure they don’t make a mess of this simple run-chase. Bhuvneshwar and left-arm seamer Yash Dayal were always going to be threatening with the new ball but Himachal openers Shubham Arora (39-ball 19) and Chopra ensured they didn’t expose the middle-order to the new ball. Chopra played a superb straight drive off Dayal to announce his arrival but Himachal could only manage 22 runs in the first 10 overs.
The two were extra cautious with their approach but started batting a bit more freely once Dayal and Bhuvneshwar were taken out of the attack.The duo scored 32 runs in the next seven overs but Shivam Mavi dismissed Arora with a well-directed bouncer to break the 54-run stand. Chopra kept operating at a steady pace but Gangta took the attack to the UP bowlers and never allowed them to make a comeback.
Coming in at 3, Gangta flexed his muscles from the word go, tonking Mavi for a six over backward point. The 29-year-old completely shut the door on UP and allowed Chopra to just keep one end intact. The latter completed his fifty off 100 deliveries, while Gangta kept finding boundaries at regular intervals. He even whacked Bhuvneshwar for a six over deep mid-wicket and soon brought up his eighth List A half-century off 53 deliveries. The 122-run stand was finally broken in the 38th over when Ankit Rajpoot knocked over Gangta for a 59-ball 58, studded with five fours and three sixes, with a superb slower delivery.
Gangta played his part to perfection and it was now up to Chopra to finish the job. In-form Dhawan, who had slammed four fifties in five innings, was dismissed for a duck but Chopra carried on. The right-handed opener was ultra aggressive against left-arm spinner Shivam Sharma and smoked him for two sixes and as many fours in his last two overs. However, the moment Chopra got to 99, he started to look a bit nervous and played eight dot deliveries. The pressure finally got to him and he was caught at mid-off just one run short of his seventh century in the 50-over format.
Sumeet Verma (9-ball 3) never looked comfortable in the middle and a bit of pressure was starting to build on Himachal. They lost four wickets in the space of 18 runs but UP didn’t have enough runs on the board. Amit Kumar (14*) and Akash Vasisht (3) then joined hands and got their team over the line in the 46th over.
Sai Kishore at 3?
Tamil Nadu made a strange call of sending Sai Kishore at No. 3 after losing Baba Aparajith (13) in the sixth over but the ploy turned out to be a masterstroke. A batter who didn't have a single half-century in 17 first-class, 30 List A games and 38 T20s, Sai Kishore was sent ahead of the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, Washington Sundar and Shahrukh, but the 25-year-old not crafted his maiden fifty but also put on 147 runs with Jagadeesan.
The latter didn’t allow Karnataka seamers to settle in, while Sai Kishore started slowly but picked up the pace once he was in. Jagadeesan, who looked far from his best in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the league stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, slammed nine fours and a six in his 101-ball 102 - his third List A century. Meanwhile, Sai Kishore smacked four fours and three maximums in his 71-ball 61. The two gave Tamil Nadu’s middle-order a formidable platform to launch an attack and that’s exactly what Shahrukh and Co. did.
Shahrukh Khan at it again
Karthik (37-ball 44) and Indrajith (24-ball 31) played crucial cameos but it was Shahrukh who once again decimated the Karnataka bowling line-up. The big man, who helped Tamil Nadu win this year's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with a last-ball six against the same opponent, once again displayed his brute power in the final 10 overs. Shahrukh was 17 off 14 at one stage before clobbering 62 off his next 25 deliveries. The 26-year-old hammered seven fours and six maximums in his 79* off 3, as Tamil Nadu managed 102 runs in the last 10 overs.
Karnataka surrender pretty quickly
The target was massive but Karnataka surely had the batting line-up to compete. However, they got off to the worst possible start as they lost Devdutt Padikkal (naught) in the second over. Rohan Kadam (24) and Krishnamurthy Siddharth (29) then stitched a decent 59-run stand for the second wicket but couldn't convert it into something substantial. The duo perished in the space of two overs, before Manimaran Siddharth got the big scalp of Manish Pandey (9) and put Tamil Nadu in commanding position.
Abhinav Manohar (32-ball 34), Srinivas Sharath (65-ball 43) and Praveen Dubey (25-ball 26) got starts but that was never going to be enough. They kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were eventually bowled out for 203 runs in 39 overs. For Tamil Nadu, R Silambarasan claimed four wickets, while Washington chipped in with three scalps.