In cricket, players like to make their landmark games, such as a 100th first-class game, memorable. Piyush Chawla did just that — not just with the ball where he picked three wickets in the second innings of the Duleep Trophy final, but also as captain by leading Central Zone to a thrilling and memorable win.
Later, with the trophy in hand, he said that it was the ‘best match’ he had played in his first-class career.
The leg-spinner finished with a total of five, but his two in the first innings were overshadowed by Ali Murtaza’s four and additionally, he was expensive as well by conceding runs at a flow of 4.63 per over. But on the fifth day, with the Kotla wicket helping spinners, Chawla’s bowling wasn’t easy to get away, something the South Zone players will attest to.
When he bowled in the first innings, the Kotla track was far harder and fresher than it was today, offering little help to the slower bowlers. Lokesh Rahul and Hanuma Vihari milked him easily on this concrete wicket, where they took the simple step of covering the line and hitting him for runs.
With the batsmen dominating and the pitch docile, Chawla was hardly effective. In order to contain runs, he tried to vary his pace, but that didn’t help much. The moment he would pitch it shot, his fielders were fetching the ball from the hoardings.
Getting it right
But the Chawla on display on Sunday, on a wearing and tearing Day Five pitch, was a starkly different one. Snatching the ball away from his pacer Pankaj Singh, despite him claiming two wickets in the morning, the leggie brought himself on, knowing fully well that with his experience the batsmen would struggle to hit him like they had in the first innings.
With a big heart, he flighted the ball, kept the googly purely as a surprise and kept varying his line. Baba Aparajith, batting beautifully on 56 at this point, jumped out to a tossed up one and missed a genuine leg-spinner, only to be stumped. Other batsmen too played for the turn but his delivery skidded on and hit their pads. Though he appealed rather often, Chawla saw the finger going up only once — in the case of Pragyan Ojha. In order to save his stumps, Ojha would offer his pad as the first line of defence. So Chawla went around the wicket and used the angle to zone in on Ojha’s pads. It worked.