Even before the morning fog could disappear, the Railways players crowded the Karnail Singh Stadium pitch in jubilation. Old warhorse J P Yadav, 37, who played for India unsuccessfully in a couple of ODI series over the last decade, had cleaned up the Bengal tail in just under 50 minutes. The writing was on the wall on Friday itself and JP got two of them to outswingers and one off a bouncer. "That's how you knock the tail off. Push them to the backfoot and then pitch one up," he said.
Thanks to his fifer, Railways won by a bonus point here, ended up second in Elite Pool A and qualified for the quarterfinals where they'll run into Baroda.
Along with the brilliance of Murali Kartik, who kept the batsmen guessing throughout the season and the dogged batting of Sanjay Bangar, JP's been crucial to Railways turnaround. They were fighting against relegation before the last game against Delhi and JP was struggling. "I had five wickets in the first two games. I worked at the nets to regain my rhythm."
The last match gave him the Eureka moment. He got five in the first essay and three crucial ones in the second. "Those three are my best."
With 30 wickets this season, he is the highest wickettaker along with Delhi's Sumit Narwal.
Things have not been easy. Narwal lost his father in August and couldn't see him breathe his last as he was in the preparatory camp at Delhi. It was an important camp as he was trying to make a comeback after being dropped last season. "Dad's death and my absence still rankles," he says. Losing someone dear can fire you up. Ask Sachin Tendulkar, who lost his dad in during the 1999 World Cup. He came back with a ton.
Bengal 201 and 134 (LR Shukla 58*, JP Yadav 5/20) lost to Railways 345 by an innings and 10 runs.