Mysuru: Mohammad Taha’s unorthodoxy made all the difference in Hubli Tigers’ surge to the final as R Vinay Kumar’s men notched up a 26-run win over Belagavi Panthers on Friday (August 30) in the Qualifier 2 of the Karnataka Premier League (KPL 2019).

Also read: Tigers eliminate Lions

Taha’s 44-ball 63 combined with a stringent bowling display on a spinners’ wicket at the SDNR Wadiyar stadium, meant the Tigers will take on Ballari Tuskers in the final of the eighth edition of KPL on August 31.

Also read: Tuskers enter KPL 2019 final

This is the Tigers’ third trip to the final, and the hope will be to raise the trophy for the first time.   

Although the final scorecard suggests a one-sided affair, it was anything but. The Tigers were bowled out for a seemingly meek 154 in 20 overs after being put in, but once the Panthers’ innings got underway, the former champions pressed the panic button far too early and ended on a disappointing 128 all out in 19.4 overs.

Shreyas Gopal returned figures of 2/17 in four overs. Mitrakanth Yadav bagged just the one but he conceded a mere 12 in his quota. Praveen Dubey had 2/31 in four overs. Abhilash Shetty, the left-arm seamer, benefitted from all the pressure from the other end, picking up three wickets for 33 runs. Aditya Somanna’s medium pace yielded 2/21 in 2.4 overs.    

While it came together impressively on the bowling front for the Tigers, their batting surely didn’t. After having scored 190 on an identical strip in their Eliminator win over Shivamogga Lions on Thursday, much was expected from the Tigers. 

They looked every bit as aggressive with Taha’s awkward slashes and lofted flicks doing a bulk of the damage early on, but then they ran into Ritesh Bhatkal (2/26), Shubhang Hegde (1/24) and debutant Shreesha A (3/34).

The three spinners combined to bowl 12 overs - a full four-over quota for each - for 84 runs. More than that, they were instrumental in keeping the Tigers down to 73 runs in the last ten overs.  

The Tigers scored 34 runs and lost six wickets — four to run-outs — in the last five overs. It didn’t look good for the Tigers going into the break, but about an hour into the second innings, they were almost certain of progressing to the final. And when you have four bowlers pick up more than two wickets in a T20, you’re bound to end up on the winning side.

Brief scores

Hubli Tigers 154 all out in 20 overs (Mohammad Taha 63, KB Pawan 31, Pravin Dubey 29; Ritesh Bhatkal 2-26, Shreesha A 3/34) beat Belagavi Panthers 128 all out in 19.4 overs (Abhinav Manohar 38; Abhilash Shetty 3/33, Shreyas Gopal 2/17, Pravin Dubey 2/31, Aditya Somanna 2/21) by 26 runs.