Pujara, bowlers star as IOC prevail in thrilling final
Indian Oil Corporation XI 268 for 8 (Pujara 83, Shukla 60, Patel 54, Yo Mahesh 3-37) beat India Cements 265 (Arun Karthik 49, Suresh 46, Mukund 45, Patel 2-43, Dani 2-34) by three runs
In a game of miniscule margins, Indian Oil Corporation prevailed thanks to a Cheteshwar Pujara special, and their nerveless bowlers who dismissed India Cements four runs short of the target of 269, to win the 2010 edition of the BCCI Corporate Trophy.
When India Cements lost Hemang Badani, their last noted batsman, with 78 required off 71, IOC would have believed they were on the threshold of victory. However, they made one blunder - captain Wasim Jaffer grassed Somasetty Suresh on 10 - and it nearly cost them the trophy.
Suresh responded by unleashing mayhem on the IOC attack, making the steep asking rate seem irrelevant for a while. He lost his partner and namesake Suresh Kumar with the score on 215, but Yo Mahesh read the situation perfectly and focused on saving his wicket and turning the strike over. Within minutes the pair had added 45 runs, Suresh lashing three sixes and two fours in a 32-ball 46 that took India Cements to the home stretch. Fortunately for IOC, they had just about enough gas in the tank to stay ahead.
For the second time in two games, Amit Dani's medium pace did the trick in the end overs. With nine required off 13, and Suresh hitting everything out of sight, Dani managed to sneak one through his defences. Eight down, nine required off the last two overs. Yo Mahesh knew he could do it in singles as long as the tail supported him. M Raja offered no support, though, bowled first ball in the next over, exposing the No. 11 batsman Arun Kumar with eight required off 10. Arun consumed three balls in scoring a single run, and the pressure mounted on Yo Mahesh. With four required from five, Dani got him to offer a catch to Abbas Ali, and IOC had survived a thriller.
The day began with Jaffer winning the toss, but it soon became a day to forget for him on the personal front. He scratched around for 17 balls before falling for four, while Paresh Patel got into the groove with ease. Patel and semi-final hero Ravikant Shukla set up the innings with a 77-run stand in 18.1 overs before Patel exited for 51, setting the stage for a Cheteshwar Pujara special.
The run-machine from Saurashtra began with the sedate assurance of a man who can afford to take his time settling in, knowing he can make up for it. Initially Pujara's modus operandi was to feed the strike back to the in-form Shukla and things went to plan until the 37th over, when Shukla fell for 60 off 90 balls, just as he seemed ready to shift gears. That dismissal triggered a lower-order collapse that would have meant a middling total in most circumstances, but thankfully for IOC, Pujara seemed to be batting on a different plane.
With wickets falling around him, Pujara launched a calculated assault on the bowlers, adding to the score with a series of well-placed shots through and over the field. A couple of breath-taking sixes through the leg side sounded the alarm bells for India Cements, on both occasions the batsman swinging the bat in a clean arc to send the ball sailing over midwicket. He fell in the pursuit of quick runs, holing out off Yo Mahesh who finished with 3 for 37. Pujara's 83 came off 77 balls, with four sixes and three fours, each run serving another reminder to the national selectors. His innings had given IOC the momentum to surge past 250, and they finished with 268.
Arun Karthik and Abhinav Mukund started the chase well, adding 81 in under 15 overs, but both failed to kick on after reaching the 40s. Thereafter, India Cements' middle order batsmen kept losing the plot after getting in - six of the top eight crossed 20, three of them crossing 40, but none made a half-century. Patel and Abbas Ali kept the pressure on with stifling spells, inducing errors from the batsmen until it seemed India Cements had lost too many wickets. The inability of chasing teams to find one batsman to bat through the innings had been a feature of the tournament, and the script seemed to have played out once again in the final.
Then came the error from Jaffer; and then followed the blitz from Suresh's blade; Dani, however, managed to stop him in the nick of time and IOC emerged deserving winners.