Belagavi Panthers were crowned champions of the Karbonn Smartphones Karnataka Premier League 2017, powered by Cycle Pure Agarbathies, after putting in a well-rounded display in the tournament’s grand finale on Saturday at the KSCA Rajnagar Stadium in Hubballi. It is their maiden KPL title.
In front of a capacity crowd, and a list of luminaries headlined by Belagavi Panthers’ brand ambassador, Bollywood superstar Sunil Shetty, Stallin Hoover unleashed the big hits he is so capable of. His 52-ball 81 included a total of 12 boundaries, with eight fours and four sixes.
He was ably supported by KN Bharath (24 off 19) and BR Sharath (23 off 18), but Hoover was the undisputed star of the day. For the record, Belagavi, after opting to chase, posted 145 for 4 after Bijapur Bulls were restricted to 141 for 7, in itself thanks to Mohammed Taha (30 off 22) and HS Sharath (30 off 12 not out).
When the winning runs were scored, the whole of the Belagavi unit raced onto the field to embrace Stuart Binny (8 not out) and Kishore Kamat (5 not out), even as a display of fireworks lit up the night. It was the perfect finish to a fine tournament.
Earlier, Belagavi was off to the perfect start with Hoover pummelling a six and a four off Abhimanyu Mithun’s first over. That set the tone for the partnership. Bharath pounced on Sharath and Ronit More over the next few overs, and the 40-mark was breached without much fuss.
However, Bijapur had their breakthrough with the final ball of the fifth – Prithivi Shekavat, the left-arm spinner, got one to turn just a tad as Bharath played down the wrong line. Hoover then launched KC Cariappa for a six and a four, but Belagavi soon lost their second, Kaunain Abbas run out after being refused a single.
Unfortunately for Bijapur, the wicket they desperately needed was Hoover’s. The big-hitter kept going from strength to strength. It was in the tenth over, off Cariappa, that he decided to bat the opposition out, lifting a massive six after BR Sharath had already picked the bowler for consecutive fours. The six brought up Hoover’s half-century, off just 32 balls. He wasn’t satiated. Dikshanshu Negi was at the receiving end of the fury the next over, and Naveen MG was also subject to his ire.
The 100-mark was crossed in the 11th over, with Hoover going on to bang boundaries for fun – Naveen MG and Mithun weren’t spared either – and after 14 overs, Belagavi needed just 15 runs more. Sharath then popped a catch back to Negi, before Hoover himself was caught behind of More. He trudged off slowly, disappointed at not being able to finish things off, but he had done his bit. Belagavi won with 15 balls to spare.
Earlier, Taha was dropped on nought off the first ball by S Arvind, and Belagavi struggled to contain him. They had Bharat Chipli run-out in the meanwhile, but Taha’s firepower ensured the momentum Belagavi gained from that was minimal.
Taha was dropped again, when on 11, and Stuart Binny was left to rue that drop. The seamer was taken to the fence five times by the young batsman, although the Karnataka all-rounder had the last word when he had bowled with a well-shaped delivery. More and Negi fell in quick succession thereafter, as Biapur were reduced to 41 for 4.
Naveen MG and AM Kiran then attempted to rebuild. They added 39 for the fifth wicket, rotating strike and keeping the scoreboard moving. Naveen did swing his arms when he could, picking boundaries against all of Hoover, Arvind and D Avinash.
But the flair for adventure cost him, shimmying down to Anand Doddamani only to be stumped. Kiran heaved a big six off Kishore Kamat, but then foiled a cheeky attempt at a scoop and was caught behind. M Nidish (5) didn’t last long either.
Sharath and Mithun then got together. Both pacemen have bailed Bijapur out with the bat previously in this tournament, and once again they used their muscular frames to good effect. Sharath took a liking to Arvind in the penultimate over, throwing his arms around for a four and six, picking 14 runs off it. The final over off Doddamani yielded 11 runs as well, after Sharath cleared the fence it.
Their late gusto boosted the total, but with Hoover in the mood he was in, it was far from enough.
Brief scores: Bijapur Bulls 141 for 7 in 20 overs (Mohammed Taha 30, HS Sharath 30*; Shubhang Hegde 2-8) lost to Belagavi Panthers 145 for 4 in 17.3 overs (KN Bharath 24, Stalin Hoover 81; Dikshanshu Negi 1-15) by six wickets.
Man of the Match: Stalin Hoover (Belagavi Panthers)