January 12, 2002

India A book place in final against India Seniors

After the blitz of Virender Sehwag on the second day of the Challenger Trophy, everything that followed was doomed to being termed ordinary. The clash between India A and India B certainly did not boast the same star studded cast and somewhat unsurprisingly did not serve up the same exciting fare. India B justified their name as such and failed to qualify for the final of this tournament, losing to India A by 59 runs in the final league encounter.

On winning the toss and sticking India A in to bat at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, India B skipper Anil Kumble must have felt a tinge of disappointment as the opposition got off to a sedate yet very stable start. Sangram Singh, bowled off a no-ball and dropped once, went on to make 40 before the first wicket fell with 63 runs on the board. Connor Williams, the other opener looked happy just staying at the wicket and grafted, as is his wont. The left hander looked in no hurry at all and took more than his fair share of time to get his eye in.

VVS Laxman, of whom a big score has been expected for a while, played a sizzling cameo, striking the ball cleanly and yet failed to make the most of a good batting wicket. After hitting four boundaries in the course of his 28 Laxman played down the wrong line to his opposite number Kumble and was clean bowled.

With Rohan Gavaskar, who failed in the first game he played in this series, Williams continued to push the score on. In the 33rd over of the innings, Williams finally made a mistake, falling to the part time off-spin of Hrishikesh Kanitkar. Williams' 73 (91 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) provided the India A team with a strong base to build on.

And build they did in the form of Gavaskar and Yuvraj Singh. The two left-handers played briskly, hitting the ball over the infield with great regularity. Yuvraj Singh in particular was effective, getting good power behind his strokes. Both of them however fell before reaching their respective half centuries. Gavaskar made 45 while Yuvraj Singh fell 2 short of 50.

Personal landmarks might have been missed, but the pair had played their parts admirably in the middle order. India A were able to post a healthy 289/7 in their allotted 50 overs.

What made the India B chase specially fraught with danger was the fact that they had to make the required runs in 40 overs or less to take an extra bonus point and qualify for the final. In their anxiety to score at a fast pace the India B team lost opener Sridharan Sriram (2) in just the first over of the day when Ajit Agarkar had the left-hander caught behind. Dinesh Mongia, centurion in the last game, followed soon after, being needlessly run out. At 12/2 India B hard the worst possible start to their essay.

Mohammad Kaif, who has impressed in this tournament played a spirited knock in the middle order but he must have known in the back of his mind that the game was over before he walked out to bat. Flicking and pulling with great comfort Kaif worked his way to 69 before he played one shot too many and became Sarandeep Singh's first victim.

Kaif certainly wasn't Sarandeep's last scalp. Perhaps spurred on by Harbhajan Singh's lacklustre performance in the Challenger Trophy, Sarandeep tossed the ball up, gave it a good tweak and invited batsmen to go after him. In the circumstances they had no choice but to go for it and perish in the process.

Kanitkar, a permanent fixture in all representative and selection matches, fell for 47 (63 balls, 3 fours). Vijay Bharadwaj, attempting to serve the selectors a reminder of his abilities showed good spirit, tonking 43 off just 28 balls but could not outwit Sarandeep Singh. Arjun Yadav (2) and Devendra Bundela (3) both rated as good prospects for the one-day game failed, completing Sarandeep Singh's five-wicket bag. The young offie is now almost a certainty for the one-dayers against England, with a timely 5/57. What's more, if his last over had not been thrashed for 13 by the lusty hitting of Ashish Nehra, his figures would have been far more respectable!

Nehra provided some good comic relief, swatting the ball around for 23 at the end.

By this stage, with the score on 191/7, India B were out of it. Ajit Agarkar (3/55) cleaned things up with some good straight fast bowling, putting an End to the India B innings on 230.

India A, with this performance book themselves a spot in the final against India Seniors, to be played on Sunday.