August 16, 2000

NCA bowlers keep Air India on a tight leash

Air India crawled to 186/6 from 97 overs against National Cricket Academy on the first day of their MRF-Buchi Babu pre-quarterfinal at the Guru Nanak College Ground in Chennai today. Far from flying high, Air India were kept on a tight leash after captain Praveen Amre beat his NCA rival Reetinder Sodhi for the toss and chose to take first strike.

After 21-year-old Baroda seamer Rakesh Patel removed opener Sandeh Kawle for one in the seventh over of the innings, Dheeraj Jadhav and Niraj Patel added a battling 68 for Air India of which the latter, an NCA product who could just as well have turned out for his opponents, made 47. With the last ball of his first and only over, Mohd. Kaif's off breaks dislodged Patel, caught by Rohit Jhalani behind the wickets.

Jhalani was again called into action, stumping skipper Amre for 22 off the bowling of Saurashtra left arm spinner Rakesh Dhurv. Two balls later, Altaf Merchant had his stumps disarranged by Patel for a duck to leave Air India at 115/4. Satish Samand did not last long but his successor Harvinder Singh Sodhi ensconced himself firmly at the crease, striking five boundaries in the course of an unbeaten 26.

In the 90th over, opener Jadhav's lengthy and painstaking 283-minute vigil, realising 63 runs (six 4's), came to an end when off spinner Ramesh Powar won a leg before decision and at stumps wicketkeeper NG Gavas was keeping Sodhi company. For NCA, Patel with 2/35 from 19 overs produced the best figures among the eight bowlers used.