What's the story?
Maharashtra were placed in Group E of the coveted T20 tournament and progressed to the Super League Group A after winning 5 of their 7 matches.
They also won the first three Super League Group A matches against Bengal, Gujarat, and Jharkhand, respectively. Rahul Tripathi and co. faced Railways in their fourth and final Super League stage encounter on March 12.
The match witnessed some brilliant batting display by the Maharashtra batsmen, especially Nikhil Naik. The youngster truly wreaked havoc for Railways and smashed 8 sixes, 5 of which came in the final over itself.
Nikhil Naik was roped in by Kolkata Knight Riders at the 2019 IPL auctions for his base price of Rs. 20 lakhs.
This would not be his first stint with the IPL. The 24-year-old played a couple of matches for Kings XI Punjab during the 2016 edition. Naik failed to make the most of his opportunities, however, and could only manage to make 23 runs in those two matches at a strike rate of 74.19.
The heart of the matter
Maharashtra were put in to bat by the Railways in their final Super League Group A match.
Gaikwad and skipper Tripathi were sent back to the pavilion early. Naik and Naushad Shaikh steadied the ship for Maharashtra. Shaikh made 59 off 39 deliveries while the young Naik played an unbeaten knock of 95 off 58 deliveries.
The highlight of the match was when Railways' speedster Amit Chandika Prasad Mishra, who had conceded just 16 runs in 3 overs, was clobbered for 5 sixes in the 20th over by Naik. He ended with the figures 1 for 46 in 4 overs.
Here is the video of the last over:
The right-handed batsman Naik had not been in great form in the recent past. He had amassed just 98 runs in 10 matches played for Maharashtra until the match played against the Railways.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has grabbed a lot of eyeballs with his sublime knock of 95* against Railways. He now has 193 runs in 11 matches at an average of 64.33 and strike rate of 135.91.
Naik's exploits helped Maharashtra reach a competitive total of 177 and they eventually won the match by 21 runs.
Maharashtra will be squaring off against Karnataka in the final of the 2018–19 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
It will be interesting to see if Nikhil Naik is able to get an opportunity in KKR's playing XI in IPL 2019.