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 with five for 47 in 10.5 overs. That proved more than enough as Punjab surrendered tamely.
Brief scores: Railways 242 all out in 47.5 overs (M Rawat 108, R Jonathan 58; S Kaul 5/47, MS Gony 2/43) beat Punjab 105 all out (T Kohli 27 not out, G Khera 23; Ashish Yadav 3/12, K Upadhyay 2/14, Anureet Singh 2/26) by 137 runs.
Pacers run through Services, help Jharkhand advance
Press Trust of India
Rahul Shukla grabbed five wickets in an impressive pace bowling display as Jharkhand beat Services by 25 runs to set up a semifinal clash against Ranji champions Karnataka.
Shukla (5/61) and fellow pacer Jaskaran Singh (2/22) ran through the Services top order to shoot them out for 189 in 48.4 overs while chasing 215. Services were reduced to a precarious 62 for five at one stage before number seven batsman Soumya Swain (45 from 66 balls; 5×4) and skipper Yashpal Singh (39 from 81 balls) rebuilt the innings before Jharkhand leg-spinner Ashish Yadav broke the 46-run sixth wicket stand by dismissing the latter.
Left-hander Swain and Suraj Yadav (28 from 35 balls; 3×4) threatened to tilt the game in Services’ favour by adding a quickfire 35 runs from 33 balls to take the equation to 71 runs required from 63 balls. It was Shukla the fielder who came into the picture, running out the aggressive Swain to break the seventh wicket partnership. Man-of-the-match Shukla, who was given the extended quota, returned to dismiss the tail en route to his second five-for in List A matches as Services were bundled out for 189 in 48.4 overs.
Earlier, number nine Shukla scored 32 runs from 34 balls with two sixes after Kumar Deobrat (84 from 99 balls; 7×4, 2×6) and Keshav Kumar (41 from 74 balls; 3×4) rescued Jharkhand from a top-order collapse with a 111-run fifth wicket partnership. Jharkhand also had a Services-like start to be reduced to 35 for five with their new ball bowlers Suraj Yadav (4/36) and Shadab Nazar (4/53) blazing all guns.
The task for Jharkhand in the semifinal against the champions will be cut out. Vinay Kumar has been in great form with the ball, and with the wicket supporting seam movement, the Jharkhand batsmen will have to come up with a better show than they did on Wednesday. In the second semifinal, Bengal will take on Railways.
Brief Scores: Jharkhand: 214 in 48.2 overs (Kumar Deobrat 84, Keshav Kumar 41; Suraj Yadav 4/36, Shadab Nazar 4/53) bt Services 189 in 48.4 overs (Soumya Swain 45; Rahul Shukla 5/61).