It is not often that we see batsmen of a team chasing a 300-plus target shouldering arms repeatedly against opposition bowlers. But MRF was exposed to such a pace barrage that the batsmen were forced to watch and play, gradually slipping into a mountain of deficit.
Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma -a virtual India attack- hurried MRF’s batsmen up with their speed, bounce, nip and unflinching accuracy. Chasing a formidable 329, MRF began shakily and even a strong finish left them well short of the target against ONGC at the ACA-VDCA stadium in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday.
ONGC, playing their first Group ‘B’ match, roared to their mammoth score after Gagan Khoda (105) and Gautam Gambhir (54) steadied the innings with a 106-run third-wicket partnership.
Khoda sent the MRF bowlers on a leather hunt, while Gambhir played one of his usual composed knocks. There was a marked contrast in their approach, as Khoda took the aerial route and Gambhir played an array of sublime strokes along the ground.
However, in a momentary lapse in concentration, the Indian opener played holed out to Prasanth Chandran off Sunny Gupta in the 27th over. But the skipper’s demise didn’t put the brakes on the team’s scoring.
Virat Kohli (73), who joined in the party, was quick to accelerate the scoring. He joined Khoda in a 104-run fourth-wicket alliance belting the spinners and the fast bowlers alike.
The moment to celebrate arrived in the 38th over when Khoda pummelled Vikram Dahiya to the mid-wicket fence for a boundary to bring up his maiden Corporate Trophy hundred.
Munaf opened ONGC’s new-ball attack and trapped Thalaivan Sargunam lbw for 12. Sarandeep Singh castled Sai Thilak for a 43-ball 21. His off-breaks also accounted for Venugopal Rao’s wicket, when the latter stepped out for a big hit, missed the length and was stumped by Ajay Ratra. Even a defiant century from Sridharan Sriram only delayed the inevitable.
Sriram gave ONGC a scare when he dug in to add 107 runs in a fourth-wicket partnership with Gnaneswara Rao (54) and continued to press on even after Munaf got rid of Rao.