India's premier domestic T20 cricket competition, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2023/24 began on October 16, with 18 matches being held on the opening day.
Our Royals were off the mark straightaway, with some dominating performances from the likes of Riyan Parag, KC Cariappa, and Murugan Ashwin in their respective matches. Local boy Kunal Rathore also shone brightly, along with the Kerala boys KM Asif, Abdul Bazith, Kuldeep Sen and Delhi's Navdeep Saini.
All-round Riyan sizzles for Assam
Hours and hours of practice to perfect it. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/g4GGs4BycE— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) October 18, 2023
21-year-old Riyan Parag, captain of the Assam team, opened his campaign with an explosive 19-ball 45 that saw him smash 7 boundaries against Odisha. While the result wasn't what Assam hoped for, it set the tone for the next match, where they bounced back to register their first win. Batting first against Bihar, Riyan led from the front with a 34-ball 61 to take his team to a stiff 200 in 20 overs. He followed it up with a match-winning bowling performance of 2/25 that applied the breaks on Bihar's batters, who were running away with the chase. Assam carried the winning momentum in their third game against Services. Once again, Riyan starred with the ball, picking 3 crucial wickets alongside teammate Sourav Dey, who bagged four to bundle out Services for a meagre 124 in 19.4 overs. Then came an unbeaten 76 from Riyan, his second consecutive half-century in the tournament, that sealed the deal for Assam as they chased down the total inside 13 overs.
Riyan's tally of 182 runs 3 games has taken him to the 4th place in the batting charts, where he averages a whopping 91.
KC's day out
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Elsewhere, another Royal started his campaign on a solid note with his new team, Mizoram. KC Cariappa picked back-to-back three-wicket hauls in his first two matches against Chattisgarh and Baroda. A mystery spin bowler who can do it all, Cariappa, known for his wily bowling, took no time in dismantling the top order of his opposition to give his team the perfect start. Despite their two losses, an upbeat Mizoram went on to win their third game with Cariappa once again among the wickets. With 7 wickets in his kitty so far, KC is one of the top wicket-takers of the tournament.
Murugan, Sandeep shine for Chandigarh
Murugan Ashwin wasted no time in making an immediate impact, as he joined fellow Royals teammate Sandeep Sharma at his new team, Chandigarh. In their opening encounter against Bihar, Ashwin registered figures of 2/20 alongside Sandeep who bagged a wicket, to set up the team for a solid 9-wicket victory. The momentum continued in the second fixture, where Chandigarh won by 8 wickets. The platform was laid by both Sandeep and Ashwin, as they ran through Sikkim's top order to pick 5 wickets between them. The former was in particularly impressive form, with figures of 3/13 in his 4 overs, well complemented by Ashwin who finished with 2/28.
Kunal gets off the mark
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An unbeaten 61 from Kunal Singh Rathore saw Rajasthan post 200 runs in 20 overs against Vidarbha in their third match. Meanwhile, KM Asif and Abdul Bazith put up strong performances for Kerala, who have won all three matches so far. Kuldeep Sen, representing his new team Tamil Nadu, was immediately among the wickets picking three in two games. Tamil Nadu have also won all the matches they've played so far, with one being abandoned without a ball being bowled. Navdeep Saini came out all guns blazing against Nagaland, scalping 2 wickets and guided Delhi to their second successive win.
*Updates as of Day 3 of SMAT