Dindigul Dragons faces stern test from Madurai Panthers

Chennai: Dindigul Dragons has a mountain to climb when they face Siechem Madurai Panthers in Qualifier 2 of the 4th Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) at the NPR College Ground here on Tuesday.

Everything was going well for the last year’s finalists and they were expected to storm into the final without much ado but two back to back defeats, beginning with the last league match against Lyca Kovai Kings and then to Chepauk Super Gillies in Qualifier 1 has suddenly exposed their fault lines.

The batting appears vulnerable and the bowling doesn’t seem to lack the bite it did during the league phase. An untested middle-order has not been able to shore up the side once the prolific opening pair of Narayan Jagadeesan and C Hari Nishaanth is dismissed. A worrying factor would be that against CSG, the openers did provide a good start raising 64 runs in 8.5 overs but the rest of the batting line-up couldn’t score the remaining 106 runs needed for victory.

The bowling has also not exactly stepped up. Against CSG it was the part-time off-spinner Hari Nishaanth (2-16), who was their best bowler. Captain Ravichandran Ashwin, who sat out against LKK, conceded 33 runs off his four overs, picking one wicket.

However, Ashwin sounded optimistic about the road ahead after the CSG game. “We need to play with a lot of freedom in the next game and hopefully, we should qualify for the final,” he said.

The venue here has been a happy hunting ground where they have not lost a game this season as both their defeats were in Tirunelveli. There is always good crowd support for the side here and most importantly they hold a 5-1 record over SMP in six meetings so far. It includes the 30-run victory over the defending champions last month.

However, SMP has turned around their campaign in spectacular fashion with five back to back victories, including the five-wicket win against VB Kanchi Veerans off the last ball in the Eliminator.

Their bowlers spearheaded by pacer Kiran Akash (15 wickets) have been their best suit but a few batting worries remain. Apart from the seasoned KB Arun Karthick and captain Shijit Chandran, the rest have not been able to create the same impact.

The winner of Qualifier 2 will meet Chepauk Super Gillies in the final at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai on Thursday (August 15).

NT Bureau