© Wisden India

Dinesh Karthik (extreme left) played the starring role as Tamil Nadu won the Deodhar Trophy 2016-17 title by beating India B by 42 runs in the final. © Wisden India

A little over a week ago in New Delhi, Dinesh Karthik scored a relatively sedate century (112 in 120 balls) against Bengal to give Tamil Nadu victory in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2016-17 final. On Wednesday (March 29) in Visakhapatnam, the experienced wicketkeeper-batsman upped the tempo, slamming a 91-ball 126 against India B to set up Tamil Nadu’s 42-run victory in the final of the Deodhar Trophy 2016-17.

Karthik’s third List A century of the season and N Jagadeesan’s third half-century in as many matches guided Tamil Nadu to 303 for 9 after they opted to bat. The batsmen’s efforts were complimented by the spinners, who combined to skittle out India B for 261 in 46.1 overs. Dhawal Kulkarni’s 5 for 39 went in vain for India B, while Rahil Shah’s 3 for 40 turned the game Tamil Nadu’s way.

Tamil Nadu were rocked early by Kulkarni, who reduced them to 39 for 3 within 11 overs with three quick strikes. It included the wickets of Kaushik Gandhi and Ganga Sridhar Raju, the openers, and M Ashwin, whose promotion to No. 3 as a pinch-hitter failed to work when he fell for a two-ball duck.

But, just like in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Karthik stepped up when his side was in trouble after losing early wickets and badly in need of a partnership. Karthik and Jagadeesan provided a counter-attacking 136-run stand that took just 120 balls. While Jagadeesan, too, maintained a good pace, Karthik was the aggressor and found the boundaries with ease. It included a 16-run over off Chama Milind, the left-arm pacer from Hyderabad.

Milind had the better of Jagadeesan and got him caught behind in the 31st over to give India B the much-needed breakthrough. But it had little effect on Karthik, who went about his business as usual and raced to his century off just 76 balls with a six off Axar Patel. With Vijay Shankar, the captain, Karthik added another 66 runs for the fifth wicket off just 51 balls.

But just when Tamil Nadu seemed set for a massive finish, both batsmen fell off successive deliveries to arrest their progress. Karthik was caught by Shreevats Goswami, the substitute fielder, off Axar on the last ball of the 39th over before Ashok Dinda trapped Vijay lbw for 21.

From a strong 241 for 4, Tamil Nadu slipped to 275 for 8 and were in danger of being bowled out before 50 overs. B Indrajith, however, remained firm and made a crucial unbeaten 31 off 30 balls to take Tamil Nadu past the 300 mark even as Kulkarni finished with five wickets.

India B’s chase got off on a quick note with Parthiv Patel slamming three boundaries but the left-handed batsman fell when he mistimed M Mohammed to square-leg in the fourth over.

Shikhar Dhawan continued the quick start and slammed eight boundaries and a six, racing to 45 in no time. Mohammed, the pacer, in partcular leaked runs as India B got to 83 for 1 in ten overs, but the introduction of spin turned things around for Tamil Nadu as the left-arm spin duo of Rahil Shah and R Sai Kishore bagged a wicket each in successive overs to derail India B’s chase.

Dhawan fell to Shah in the 11th over for 45 off just 34 balls while Sai Kishore dismissed Ishank Jaggi, leaving India B in a bit of bother at 84 for 3. It didn’t help India B that Manish Pandey was forced off the field in the 15th over with an injury.

Harpreet Singh and Gurkeerat Singh Mann revived the chase with an 81-run stand for the fourth wicket through the middle overs. However, Tamil Nadu’s spinners struck a double-blow again when Harpreet and Axar fell within a space of five balls to Ashwin and Washington Sundar, leaving India B 166 for 5.

India B’s biggest hope then was Gurkeerat. The Punjab batsman calmly went past his half-century and added 56 runs for the sixth wicket with Akshay Karnewar, before the latter fell to Mohammed in the 42nd over. The dismissal bought Pandey back in the middle with India B needing 82 off 51 balls, but all hopes of a revival were quashed when Rahil dismissed both Gurkeerat (64 in 85) and Pandey (32 in 24) in the 43rd over. Dinda threw his bat around for a while for a 14-ball 19, but the task was too much to do for the tailenders.