RP singes North with five
(Varun Gupta in Bangalore)
IT WAS a case of sleight of hand, and twist of fate. Set an imposing target of 294 by Central Zone in their Deodhar Trophy game, North's dressing room wore a nonchalant look during the lunch break, a look of a team supremely confident of its abilities, blissfully unaware that fate, or just one man - RP Singh - was about to make a mockery of the hubris.
With a batting line-up boasting of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra, Shikhar Dhawan, Rajat Bhatia et al, one cannot find fault with North fancying their chances of overhauling the target, even on a wicket that had more than its fair share of grass and was a tricky proposition. But even they would not have anticipated that the same wicket which appeared so docile when Central's Naman Ojha, Faiz Fazal and Suresh Raina ran riot in the first session, would so easily be demonized in the second session by one man who beguiled, hustled and eventually broke the back of their batting to earn his side a valuable 70-run victory on Monday that also helped them cull a bonus point. Ojha also played a stellar role in the win as he dovetailed his attacking and defensive instincts to perfection to stroke a masterful century. However, the sight to behold today was RP. Powered by the wind generated by his arms and newly-acquired blond hair, RP got the ball to talk, swerve, and kink at high pace, things that leave even the very best feeling queasy. And North's top-order certainly felt the heat as he struck thrice in his first and innings' 2nd over, snaring Dhawan, Gambhir and Bhatia to leave North in tatters, and eventually bagged a five-wicket haul for himself inside eight overs.
First to go was Dhawan who got a slight nick on a delivery going down legside. Two balls later, Gambhir followed, caught at second slip while prodding tentatively at an away-going delivery. Bhatia's defence was breached on the very next ball as the scorecard read a sorry, 0-3! His next victim was Chopra, who looked solid before playing slightly across a sharp in-ducker to be trapped in front.
However, what ensued was utter carnage from the willow of a man who scoffs at pressure and winks at trouble. Batting at number five but still coming out to bat when the scorecard read zero, Sehwag had that rare opportunity to fight fire with fire, and boy, how he did so. On a day when all the talk surrounded fitness, Sehwag decided not to exert himself, dealt in only fours and sixes, and left Central quivering in their boots for a good hour or two. Knowing that he had nothing to lose, Sehwag unleashed his full array of strokes, biffing anything short through covers and point, clumping anything full over mid-on and mid-off, and flicking anything down the leg with utter disdain. In fact, out of his 50, he scored 44 of them in boundaries and sixes! Virat Kohli gave him good support but just when the precocious youngster was looking good for a big one, he was done in by a Sandeep Singh snorter that clipped his offstump. Uday Kaul joined Sehwag and the duo put together a refreshing 92-run partnership that looked threatening before Sehwag, who was dropped a couple of balls earlier by keeper Ojha, was adjudged lbw off Singh for a superlative 81, although the ball did look to be missing offstump. After that, the match became a mere formality although Kaul and Mishra hung around defiantly.
Earlier, Ojha and Fazal laid perfect bedrock for Central as they put together 163 runs for the first wicket, an effort that enabled Central to post 293. Ojha was cheeky as well as authoritative as he cooked the goose of North bowlers with aplomb. Raina and Mohd Kaid chipped in with neat knocks later on.
Central Zone: Fazal c Kaul b Sehwag 66, Naman Ojha c Kaul b Gony 110, Raina c Malik b Sangwan 42, M Kaif not out 34, P Kumar not out 13. Extras (b-2, lb-5, w-12, nb-9) 28
Total (for 3 wkts; 50 overs) 293
Fall of wkts: 1-163, 2-229, 3-266
Bowling: Sangwan 10-0-67-1, Malik 9-1-49-0, Bhatia 2-0-21-0, Gony 10-0-45-1, Mishra 10-0-48-0, Sehwag 9-0-56-1
North Zone: Chopra lbw b RP Singh 11, Dhawan c Ojha b RP Singh 0, Gambhir c Sharma b RP Singh 0, Bhatia b RP Singh 0, Sehwag lbw b SR Singh 81, Kohli b SR Singh 16, Kaul b Raina 55, Mishra c Ojha b Kumar 43, Sangwan lbw b RP Singh 4, Malik b Chawla 0, Gony not out 1.
Extras (lb-3, w-9) 12
Total (all out; 42.2 overs) 223
Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-12, 5-60, 6-152, 7-210, 8-219, 9-220
Bowling: P Kumar 8-1-45-1, RP Singh 7.2-1-36-5, SR Singh 9-0-43-2, M Kartik 4-0-15-0, Chawla 10-0-63-1, Raina 4-0-18-1
Rahane helps West better East
(G Krishnan in Hyderabad)
THE FUTURE of Mumbai cricket, Ajinkya Rahane and Abhishek Nayar carried West Zone to a six-wicket win with a bonus point against East in the Deodhar Trophy second round match here on Monday.
West, coming here with minus-1, chased East's lowly 225 in 39.2 overs. West needed the bonus point badly and Nayar was there in the end, smashing an unbeaten 49 off 27 deliveries with seven fours and a six after Rahane (60, 72b, 6x4) and captain Wasim Jaffer (48, 43b, 10x4) laid a strong base.
West now have four points from two games while East have three.
A victory for West was never in doubt after they came back strongly to dismiss East cheaply despite openers Arindam Das (30) and Sourav Ganguly (47) adding 63 in 14 overs. The duo found runs hard to come as Munaf Patel worked up a good pace and bounce. Ajit Agarkar provided good support, not giving batsmen width to play shots.
Under-19 World Cup star Sourabh Tiwary top-scored for East with 65 (58b, 4x4, 2x6), a majority of his runs coming in the midwicket region. Tiwary added 65 for the fifth wicket but a lower order collapse gave East such a low score that they could not deny West the bonus point.
Jaffer's boys needed to score at 5.65 for the extra point. Jaffer maintained the momentum despite an early setback as the otherwise big-hitting Yusuf Pathan flopped for the second successive game, snicking Dhiraj Goswami to second slip S Tiwary.
Jaffer was wristy as usual and each of his 10 boundaries was graceful, helping his confidence going into the Test series against South Africa. He picked the gaps beautifully and made batting look simple. The only mistake he made was when he made room to cut medium-pacer SS Paul and was bowled by the incoming delivery, ending his 61-ball 59-run partnership with the ever-improving 19-year-old Rahane.
With the result of the match beyond doubt, East fought hard to deny West the bonus point. But that was not to be as Nayar slammed every bowler in sight. He received tremendous support from Venugopala Rao (37, 49b, 5x4). Nayar, the 24-year-old left-hander, paced his innings intelligently, picking out the empty spaces in the field and scored the winning run by pulling a full toss from Paul to the mid-wicket buondary.
West Zone's Rohit Sharma was forced to sit out of Monday's game against East due to upset stomach. Sharma, one of the stars in India's tri-series triumph in Australia, did not attend practice on Sunday but was expected to play on Monday. "He was down with diarrhoea," said West manager Atul Bedade. "He was alright by afternoon."Sharma will travel with the rest of the West squad to Visakhapatnam, where they will face North on Thursday.
A Das st P Patel b Abdulla 47
S Ganguly c Jaffer b Trivedi 30
A Majumdar lbw Abdulla 21
M Tiwari b Nayar 13
S Tiwary c Rahane b Agarkar 65
LR Shukla c M Patel b Rao 25
W Saha c Trivedi b Rao 3
D Goswami b Agarkar 7
R Bose run out 0
SS Paul run out 3
I Saxena not out 0
Extras (b-4, lb-3, w-4) 11
Total (all out, 49.2 overs) 225
Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-98, 3-111, 4-124, 5-189, 6-198, 7-216, 8-217, 9-221.
Bowling: M Patel 8-0-26-0, Agarkar 9.2-0-46-2 (w-3), S Trivedi
9-1-39-1 (w-1), I Abdulla 10-0-45-2, A Nayar 6-0-26-1, YV Rao
5-0-16-2, Y Pathan 2-0-20-0.
Y Pathan c S Tiwary b Goswami 6
W Jaffer b Paul 48
A Rahane c sub (Jaggi) b Shukla 60
P Patel run out 18
Y Venugopala Rao not out 37
A Nayar not out 49
Extras (lb-5, w-3) 8
Total (for 4 wkts, 39.2 overs) 226
Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-66, 3-123, 4-157.
Bowling: R Bose 8-1-51-0, D Goswami 6-1-36-1, SS Paul 7.2-0-43-1
(w-2), S Ganguly 6-0-24-0, I Saxena 7-0-38-0 (w-1), LR Shukla