They say Shahrukh Khan can play with your emotions and get your heart racing, and that's exactly what he did in the grand finale of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021-22 in Delhi on Monday (November 22). One of the fiercest batters in Indian domestic cricket, Shahrukh smoked a six off the last ball to help Tamil Nadu defeat their arch-rivals Karnataka and win their third SMAT title. The six pierced through the hearts of Karnataka who lost their first-ever white-ball final.
Having suffered a one-run defeat in the 2019 final against the same opponent, Tamil Nadu looked down and out at one stage, but that’s when Shahrukh walked in and turned the game on its head. The equation went down to five off one delivery and left-arm seamer Prateek Jain bowled a full-length delivery on the pads of Shahrukh who deposited it over deep square leg to propel Tamil Nadu to a mind-boggling win.
Tamil Nadu lost two set batters - Jagadeesan and Shankar - off consecutive deliveries in the 16th over and the onus was on Shahrukh to get the remaining 55 runs off just 24 deliveries. The big man had finished quite a few games for his state but this was different. The pressure was enormous but Shahrukh embraced the challenge with “open arms”. The right-hander announced his arrival by tonking Darshan MB for a massive six down the ground and then followed it up with a boundary between extra cover and long-off.
Jain then conceded only six runs in the 18th over and Tamil Nadu needed 30 off 12 to defend their SMAT title. The four byes off the third ball surely helped but Shahrukh was left with 22 to get off the last seven deliveries. Vidyadhar Patil had only given four runs (plus four byes) off the first five deliveries but Shahrukh spoiled the entire over by hitting the last ball for a six. There was nothing wrong with the delivery - pitched on a good length, just outside off, but Shahrukh still managed to muscle it down the ground.
R Sai Kishore, who claimed 3/12 in the first innings, got a crucial boundary off the first delivery of the final over before taking a single and bringing Shahrukh back on strike. Jain kept everything away from Shahrukh’s arc and held his nerve till the final delivery. The last one was in the slot and Shahrukh was never going to miss out. Next thing you know, Jain was down on his knees, while Shahrukh stood tall, flexing his muscles. The 26-year-old pulled off something special but the reality is that the game shouldn’t have gone that far.
Chasing 152 on a solid batting surface, Hari Nishaanth (12-ball 23) didn’t allow Jagadeesha Suchith and KC Cariappa to settle in with the new ball and took the attack to both the spinners from the word go. The left-hander smashed two maximums and a four and was looking in outstanding touch before he was run out in the fourth over. And, that’s when Karnataka took complete control of the game. Sai Sudharsan scored 9 off 12 before getting dismissed by Karun Nair, while Jagadeesan (46-ball 41) looked completely out of touch.
The right-handed opener struggled to get going, and along with skipper Shankar (22-ball 18), allowed Karnataka to dictate terms. The two put on 44 runs but wasted way too many deliveries. There was a period when Tamil Nadu didn’t score a single boundary for 49 balls and it felt like Karnataka would run away with the game. With 57 needed off the last five overs, the onus was on them to finish the job after eating up so many deliveries, but instead the duo perished off consecutive deliveries. Both of them were caught at long-off off KC Cariappa's bowling, leaving Shahrukh with an improbable task.
However, Tamil Nadu’s designated finisher was ready and got his team over the line in some fashion. He used the depth of the crease to perfection and smacked one four and three sixes during his stay in the middle. "It was a special thing to hit a last-ball six. I'll remember this for a long time. There were a lot of things in my mind, but I tried to keep it simple. The ball was rough and the wicket was slow, so I wanted to connect it off the middle. I was waiting to hit it (the final ball) over long-on, but I got the room to get it over square leg," he said after being named player of the match.
Earlier, asked to bat, Sai Kishore (3/12) and Sanjay Yadav (1/32) rocked Karnataka early as they lost three wickets inside six overs. Rohan Kadam (0), Manish Pandey (15-ball 13) and Karun Nair (14-ball 18) perished with just 32 runs on the board but Abhinav Manohar (37-ball 46) and Sharath BR (20-ball 16) put on 55 runs for the fourth wicket to steady the ship.
Sandeep Warrier got the key wicket of Manohar in the 17th over but was slammed for two fours and a six by Praveen Dubey in his final over. Dubey (25-ball 33) and Jagadeesha Suchith (7-ball 18) added 41 runs off 19 deliveries and got their team past the 150-run mark. T Natarajan (1/44), brought into the XI in place of P Saravana Kumar who took a fifer in the semifinals, was the most expensive bowler, while Warrier too leaked 34 runs.
In the end, it didn’t matter for Tamil Nadu! More importantly, it didn’t matter for Shahrukh!