After 28 league matches over the last three-and-half weeks across four venues (Coimbatore, Dindigul, Salem and Tirunelveli, in that order), the business end of the TNPL will commence from Friday at the Salem Cricket Foundation Ground, where the first two Playoff games will be held.
Defending champion Lyca Kovai Kings will take on Dindigul Dragons on Friday in Qualifier-1, followed by the clash between Siechem Madurai Panthers and Nellai Royal Kings in the Eliminator on Saturday.
Kovai Kings and Dragons have been the standout teams, having won six out of the seven games, with the former topping the standing on Net Run Rate.
Kovai skipper M. Shahrukh Khan recently told The Hindu, “We have been doing well as a team for the past few years, and we focussed on getting as many of our players back during the auction.”
The team broke the bank to get back B. Sai Sudharsan (₹21.60 lakh) and the opener repaid the faith by setting up five wins before leaving for the Duleep Trophy.
Dragons picked a strong bowling attack led by its skipper R. Ashwin. The India off-spinner, alongside Varun Chakravarthy, ensured a formidable spin combination. In the pace department, Subodh Bhati has been exceptional in the death, while P. Saravana Kumar has been productive with the new ball.
The batting unit looked a bit fragile, but opener Shivam Singh has come good in the last few games easing the burden on current skipper B. Indrajith, who has been prolific.
Though Kings got the better of the Dragons in the league-stage riding on Sai Sudharsan’s 83 (41b), there is not much to separate the two sides. Friday’s match could boil down to how the Kings’ batting firepower fares against the Dragons’ bowlers.
Meanwhile, Royal Kings have not been left far behind, finishing with five wins. The experienced K.B. Arun Karthick has led the team admirably despite not boasting many Tamil Nadu regulars.
The Nellai team will fancy its chances against former champion Madurai Panthers, which has had a mixed tournament with two losses at the start before winning three on the bounce and scraping through to qualification with a win in its last game.
The playoffs schedule:
At Salem: Qualifier 1 (July 7): Lyca Kovai Kings vs Dindigul Dragons; Eliminator (July 8): Nellai Royal Kings vs Siechem Madurai Panthers
At Tirunelveli: Qualifier 2 (July 10): Loser of Qualifier 1 vs Winner of Eliminator.
Final: July 12: Winner of Qualifier 1 vs Winner of Qualifier 2.