Defending small totals is not something new for Haryana. Since the time they have started hosting their Ranji Trophy games at Lahli, their bowlers have learnt the art of coming out on top of low-scoring games. On Thursday, Haryana once again excelled, their disciplined bowling forcing a batting line-up to throw away their wickets. Haryana defeated Punjab by eight runs after making just 153 in 32 overs of a reduced game of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Instrumental in Haryana’s win was their veteran seamer Joginder Sharma, who bowled his full quota of nine overs in one go, picking up a five-wicket haul, conceding just 22 runs. With the bat, Avi Barot made a much needed half century to help Haryana reach 153.
Sharma troubled the batsmen with his swing and off-the-wicket movement alongwith a great control. He perhaps learnt from how things went earlier in the day, when Manpreet Gony stuck to a testing line and picked up four Haryana batsmen. Sharma, in fact, went up to his batsmen to figure out what exactly he had to do to come out on top on a wicket that had something for the medium pacers.
“Our batsmen told me that it was difficult to play the swing on the Jamia Millia wicket. It was a huge boost for me since I have always been a swing bowler and not somebody who could bowl at a fast pace. I put all my learning over the years and decided not to give width to any Punjab batsmen. In a low scoring game, there is always a tendency to score quickly and that is when the opposition has a chance,” said Sharma.
As Sharma reached the ninth and final over of his spell, he had done the damage for Punjab. The scorecard read 54/7 after the eighteenth over with skipper Harbhajan Singh playing-on. Haryana was certainly moving towards the win.
Out of the five batsmen he dismissed, Sharma trapped two leg before, castled two and had one caught. He said varying his pace and swing was the key to his performance. “On a wicket like this, you have to make sure that the batsman doesn’t get used to either your pace or your swing. He should always be in two minds. The two LBWs that I got were by in-swingers, which is not my natural delivery. I set them up with away going deliveries, with a packed off-side field. On some deliveries, I deliberately reduced my pace , which is not to say that I bowled slower ones. We just stuck to a plan and worked around that,” Sharma said.
If he was doing his bit from one end, Mohit Sharma and Harshal Patel supported him equally well from the other. Mohit picked up the important wicket of Manan Vohra while Patel trapped Himanshu Chawla and then had Gurkeerat Singh (31) caught during the batting power play.
With Punjab needing 40 runs in the last four overs, both Gurinder Singh and Manpreet Gony swung their bats but could only muster 32 runs. Gony smashed a couple of sixes which gave Punjab some hope and Gurinder supported him right till the end, making a fist of the chase. “I believe all our bowlers are capable of bowling in the death overs. I bowled out because I was in rythm. We have played cricket together and we now know how to bowl in such situations,” Sharma said.
Brief scores: Haryana 153 for 8 in 32 overs (A Barot 55, N Saini 27, M Gony 4/39, S Kaul 2/22) beat Punjab 146 for 8 in 32 overs (Gurinder Singh 38*, G Mann 31, M Gony 26 n.o, J Sharma 5/22, Harshal Patel 2/31)