April 6, 2000

Anjum dominates as Air India post match winning total

For the first time in the tournament Air India captain Purnima Rau won the toss. After the first innings was completed and Air India had 221/4 on the board thanks to 71 from Purnima Rao and a classy unbeaten 89 from south paw Anjum Chopra it was clear that the match was also won. In the end, the target proved to be overwhelmingly large and Central Zone succumbed to a 152 run loss.

Electing to bat first on a flat batting track at the AC Tech Ground she took the crease with Anju Jain. The two have been the batswomen to watch all series and today was no exception. Central Zone opening bowlers were all at sea against the seasoned Air India campaigners. Opening the bowling for Central Zone skipper Leena Muley and Neetu Singh could not keep the run flow in check.

Hitting the ball cleanly, the two batswomen got Air India off to a strong start. It was only a run out caused by a misunderstanding that broke the partnership. Anju Jain had 8 to her name in the fifth over when she was forced to run on a call that brought Purnima Rau to her end. Stranded by a good throw, Anju was run out.

In came Anjum Chopra, another big name in women's cricket in India. Before going in to bat, Anjum watched the game keenly from the confines of the pavilion. When it was her turn to go in, a silent prayer with gloves in hand preambled what was an important entrance.

Anjum and Purnima then took Air India from strength to strength toying with the Central Zone bowling. Purnima was the aggressor of the two, lifting the ball over the infield with regularity. Never hesitating to play across the line, Purnima gave a fair few half chances in her innings. However, Central Zone did not take the chances they were given and paid dearly.

At the other end Anjum was in fine nick. Playing dead straight, she gave no chances at all. Coming down the wicket to the spinners Anjum stroked the ball effortlessly through the off side. When the ball was on her pads she walked neatly across and tucked it away to the on side.

After helping herself to 71 runs, Purnima chanced her arm once too many times and ended up holing out to long on. Her wicket fell with the score on 127. By then Air India were in too strong a position for the dismissal to have any serious impact on the scoring rate.

Anjum brought up her fifty by clouting a full toss for a one bounce boundary through mid wicket. She was kept good company by Mithali Raj.

Mithali was bowled in the 41st over when she played down the wrong line to an off spinner from Bindeshwari Goyal. Mithali had made 8 in her stay at the crease.

Mithali was replaced by Smita Harikrishna. At this late stage of the innings, it was well set Anjum who made the difference. An accumulater of runs rather than a big hitter, Anjum played sensibly throughout the Air India innings. With three overs left and Anjum on 81 messages from the Air India dressing room went out to Chopra informing her of her proximity to the three figure mark. Putting a premium on her wicket, she batted out the full 50 overs and ended unbeaten on 89. Anjum's chanceless innings dominated the Central Zone team completely. In all likelihood, it also put the match well past Central Zone.

Air India posted the first 200 plus total of the tournament.

The match was over before Central Zone began their reply. 222 was too large a total for Central Zone to chase, especially against a solid side like Air India.

The Central Zone openers Neetu Singh and Priyanka Shally livened up the proceedings with a couple of good hits. However, after Central were reduced to 43/6 in the 20th over there was no looking back. Air India coasted to an easy 152 run victory.

This triumph Air India pick up 8 points from their four encounters. Tomorrow they take on West Zone. Unless West can conjure something special, Air India will head unchallenged to their big match against Indian Railways on the 8th.