Former India stumper Ajay Ratra took a long look at the Palam sports complex pitch for the game between Himachal Pradesh and Haryana in the Vijay Hazare North Zone qualifiers. The HP skipper was up against his former side,and even though there was no one in the current Haryana squad who he had once played with,playing against his old side did seem to weigh on his mind.
His former sides reputation preceded their performance,and the latter was equally impressive as Haryana registered a comfortable 79 run win,earning a bonus point for their effort.
Winning the toss and electing to bat on a wicket deemed to have something in it for the spinners,Haryana started confidently,with skipper Nitin Saini looking confident against the pacers before falling to medium-pacer Rishi Dhawan. The youngster not only broke the opening stand,sending back Sonu Rathee caught by Rahul Singh in the fifth over,he followed that with Sainis wicket to leave Haryana at 40 for 2.
But the Haryana middle order came good,like so many times before. Sachin Rana and Sunny Singh pulled the team out of the rut and managed to rotate the strike. Singh perished for 42 but Rana continued to middle the ball and,in the company of Rahul Dewan,forged an important 128-run stand with confident and crisp drives off the front foot.
While Ratra constantly rotated his bowlers and hesitated to set attacking fields,sloppy fielding made things worse for HP. The spinners failed to utilise the slowness of the pitch,either bowling too full or dropping the ball short,and were exploited to the hilt by Rana and Dewan. Rana got to his ton with a majestic six over midwicket off Rahul Singh.
Set a target of 292,HP lost opener Abhinav Bali early on,to a ball that stayed low. Paul Valthaty showed glimpses of his IPL swashbuckling style with clean hits and hard shots but couldnt hang long. Prashant Chopra managed a few lusty hits before he too was caught trying to force the scoring.
With their top four batsmen back and Himachal had lost their top four batsmen and the asking rate above six,Ratra and Sridharan Sriram came together but could not add much to the scoreboard. Mukesh Sharmas laborious 42 was the best any batsman could manage and with Kuldeep Hooda wrapping up the batting with 3/27,HP were all out for 212,giving Haryana a bonus point. Ratra conceded after the match that Himachal were never in the game. We bowled poorly and then our batting just did not click. Haryana bowled well and the pitch was supportive, Ratra said,adding that the team would try and put up a better performance against Punjab in their next game.
Brief scores: Haryana 291/7 in 50 overs (Sachin Rana 110,Rahul Dewan 52; Rishi Dhawan 4/64) HP 212 all out in 49.4 overs (Mukesh Sharma 42; Kuldeep Hooda 3/27)