Cricket can throw up fascinating tales. M. K. Sivakumar last played for Tamil Nadu six years ago before sinking into oblivion. Nearing 35, this spinner-turned journeyman paceman appeared drifting towards an uneventful sunset.
The chances of Sivakumar being his team’s toast before the big lights at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium and on National television were bleak if not impossible a few months ago. But then, the India Cements-TNPL Twenty20 competition had handed him a lifeline and Sivakumar grabbed it.
Getting the ball to seam around and varying his pace, Sivakumar achieved a hat-trick as Lyca Kovai Kings defeated Albert Tuti Patriots by nine wickets in the 13 overs here on Wednesday.
Chasing just 96, Kovai Kings achieved the target in only 12.5 overs against a dispirited attack flattened by the batting collapse after winning the toss.
Sivakumar was the cynosure. Operating with exemplary control if not bat-hurrying speed, he struck in the 18th over with the score at 83 for four.
Off the over’s second delivery, Sivakumar had southpaw Maruti Raghav holing out to long on. The next ball saw the exit of top-scorer Washington Sundar (43, 48b, 2x4, 1x6) held brilliantly at point by Suryaprakash.
Then, Akash Sumra played inside the line of a slower delivery to see his leg stump knocked back. Sivakumar exulted as his mates rushed towards him. He had taken TNPL’s first ‘three-in-three.’
Then, the Kovai Kings opening pair of L. Suryaprakash (43, 2x4, 2x6) and B. Anirudh Sita Ram (48 batting, 37b, 4x4, 2x6) batted with enterprise and flair to nail the pursuit. The duo put on 94 in 12.3 overs before Suryaprakash was run out.
A compact, confident batsman, Suryaprakash drove and flicked with finesse. Anirudh, a little known left-hander, announced his arrival on the TNPL stage with an innings of substance and flair.
Earlier, India star Murali Vijay, making light of a wrist injury, rotated the Kovai Kings bowlers well. Crucially, the bowlers worked in partnerships.
Stress creates wickets. Unable to break the shackles imposed by tidy bowling from both ends, Tuti Patriots batsmen perished to desperate shots that were picked up in the deep.
The surface here continued to challenge the batsmen. There was hardly any pace for them to work on. And on a pitch of variable bounce, they could not quite get under the ball for the bigger blows.
Tuti Patriots required someone like its captain Dinesh Karthik, a batsman with bat-speed and powerful wrists, to overcome the conditions. But then, Karthik, selected for Duleep Trophy, was not available for the game.
Man of the Match Sivakumar was not complaining.
The scores: Albert Tuti Patriots 95 in 19.5 overs (M. Washington Sundar 43, M.K. Sivakumar three for 10 (including a hat-trick)) lost to Lyca Kovai Kings 96 for one in 12. 5 overs (L. Suryaprakash 43, Anirudh Sita Ram 48 not out).