CHENNAI: Defending champion Jolly Rovers will play Grand Slam in the final of the TNCA first division championship for the Raja of Palayampatti Shield at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium from Thursday.
This will be the third meeting between the sides in the knock-out phase of the championship in three seasons. Grand Slam had the better of Rovers in the first encounter, the 2008 final. Rovers extracted revenge in the 2009 semifinal en route to winning the championship, tying the head-to-head record at 1-1.
Grand Slam, under J. Madanagopal's judicious leadership, secured its place in this season's final in comfortable fashion, outplaying Globe Trotters in the semifinals after topping the league table.
Rovers, on the other hand, had to dig deep against Vijay in the semifinals — R. Sathish's double hundred and Ajay Kudua's unbeaten century proved match-turning performances.
K. Shree Vasudeva Das (953 runs), Kaushik Gandhi (812), and Hemang Badani (664) have been instrumental in Grand Slam chasing down tall scores during the league.
Left-arm spinner V. Arun Kumar has had a break-out season with 51 wickets. Seamer M. Raja has chipped in with 25 wickets.
Sathish has been Rovers' stand-out performer. The lion-hearted captain has led from the front — his 1111 runs, which include two double centuries, have been central to Rovers' cause, many of them coming when his team needed them most.
Maaruthi Raghav has contributed with both bat and ball for Rovers, making 559 runs and taking 26 wickets for the season.
Kudua, a dangerous player and a proven performer in big games, has 354 runs from seven innings and has been dismissed only twice.
G. Vignesh has claimed 26 wickets, while R. Suthesh and R. Jesuraj have taken 19 and 15 wickets respectively. S. Vidyut's left-arm spin has fetched him 20 wickets. — Special Correspondent