LEFT-ARM PACEMAN Rudra Pratap Singh put up a power-packed performance with a four-wicket haul as Ranji champions Uttar Pradesh lifted the inaugural Mohammed Nissar Trophy with a huge 316-run win over Pakistan's national cricket champions Sialkot here today.
UP declared their second innings at 373 for seven in the morning, setting the visitors a 429-run target. Sialkot were bowled out for 112.
The result seemed to be a foregone conclusion as the injury-battered Sialkot team was without two of its main batsmen — captain Imran Nazir and wicketkeeper Khalid Hafiz — and speedster Mohammed Asif who left for Pakistan due to fitness worries.
"What could we do? We tried our best. But with two of our players unable to bat and the third unavailable, our team struggled," said skipper Imran Nazir who got the ‘best batsman’ award for his swashbuckling innings of 123 in the first innings. The visitors struggled against speedster RP Singh — named the best bowler of the game — who bowled his heart out, ending with six wickets in the match.
Fittingly, it was RP who delivered the blow that ended the Sialkot innings: After dismissing Shoaib Malik for 11 just after the lunch interval, RP removed the last available batsman, Sarfaraz Ahmed, for a first-ball duck.
"The ball was moving, I tried to keep the ball up to the batsmen and it worked for me," said RP. The fast bowler who is to play in the Challenger Series starting Sunday, said he would try to make it to Chennai in time. "However, I feel I won't be able to play in the first match," he said when told that India captain Rahul Dravid wanted him at Chennai for the first match.
But, while UP won the match, Sialkot won hearts with their coach Azmat Rana and captain Imran Nazir sportingly acknowledging the support they received from the crowd after congratulating the UP team members.
UP’s Rizwan Shamshad, who before this match was literally fighting to keep his place in the side, answered his critics by bagging the man of the match award after being the highest scorer for the side in both the innings. He said, "I played according to the situation. We were under pressure in the first innings and I tried to play the sheet anchor. In the second innings, our position was sound and hence I tried to play my strokes." Asked how it felt to miss his 20th first class century in both the innings, he said, "Lapse of concentration probably resulted in my downfall." But the UP team wasn't complaining. After their Ranji Trophy triumph, this was their second major win. Praising RP in particular and other fast bowlers in the team, UP coach, Rajendra Singh Hans said that the quick bowlers kept the momentum going after the batsman had put up enough runs on the board.
Skipper Suresh Raina attributed the win to team effort and singled out Rizwan Shamshad and RP Singh for special mention. "In the absence of Mohd Kaif the boys did a great job," he said. A jubilant UP team manager Gopal Sharma said, "We backed ourselves to win."