Mandeep Singh is considered to be one of the brightest batting talents in the country, with the reputation of being a decent bat against pace. But Anureet Singh’s delivery, bowled from a fairly tight angle, started from well outside the off stump and curved in to knock the leg stump out. Mandeep looked back in disbelief and slowly trudged off the ground for a duck. A turnout of about 2,000, however, gave a rousing applause to a different player who walked in. It was Yuvraj Singh’s first match at Eden Gardens in more than a year.
It was just a Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinal against Railways. But out of the Indian ODI squad now, it was an opportunity for the 32-year-old left-hander to make a statement and also get into the groove ahead of the World T20. Punjab were reeling at 12 for three and were depending on him to get out of the woods. Krishnakant Upadhyay was bowling from the Club House end and welcomed Yuvraj with a shortish delivery around the off-stump. Two balls later another one was aimed at his rib cage.
Anureet, however, asked tougher questions from the other end with his swing and movement. Yuvraj initially struggled to put bat on ball but changed his strategy in the pacer’s next over. He stood well outside the batting crease and made Anureet alter his length. A gorgeous cover drive followed. Then a flick towards the deep square-leg boundary gave him three.
Then there was the accident. Yuvraj played a forward defensive shot to a Karn Sharma leg break and the ball went towards short leg. There was never a run in it but Gurkeerat Singh charged down from the non-striker’s end and Yuvraj had to react. He was late and was run out for 15 off 34 balls. Punjab were reduced to 51 for five, chasing 243 for victory.
From thereon, it was always going to be an uphill task for Harbhajan Singh’s men and they eventually folded for 105 in 33.4 overs, losing by 137 runs.
It was a big win for Railways, who started the game as underdogs. Anureet, their top wicket taker, was once again outstanding with the new ball. After a fantastic Ranji season, the 26-year-old has carried forward his form to the shorter format as well. He returned with two wickets for 26 runs in seven overs, but could have had a couple more scalps. Captain Mahesh Rawat pitched in as well, scoring his maiden List A hundred today — a run-a-ball 108 — and guiding his side to their highest total so far in this tournament. Jonathan Rongsen gave him good company with 58 in 78 balls and together they added 141 runs for the fifth wicket. Railways could have crossed 250, but Punjab medium pacer Siddharth Kaul took three wickets in his 11th over, finishing continued…