Vidyut and Kartik steer Seniors to title
India B were undone by Zaheer Khan early on, when he induced the top-order batsmen into indiscretion, and were flummoxed by Kartik's accuracy while they tried to accelerate. Once they had lost their top order cheaply, Kartik got into the act with a controlled spell, extracted disconcerting turn, mopped up the tail with hardly any fuss and ended with the second-best spell in the history of the Challenger Trophy. The chase was kick-started by Vidyut, the opening batsman from Tamil Nadu who got his first chance in the tournament, with some gorgeous cover-drives and, unlike the rest; he handled the spinners with assurance en route to an entertaining 87 that included 15 fours.
Vidyut, a tall aggressive left-hander, started off as a left-arm spinner and turned in some fine performances in the Under-19 level. But his batting improved just as his bowling fell away as he turned into one of the mainstays in the Tamil Nadu batting line-up, impressing with his flashy batting at the top of the order in one-dayers. He kick-started the chase by belting S Sreesanth, who was named as the Man of the Series for his pacy bursts, and used his feet delectably when the spinners came on. He lost partners at regular intervals but kept up the tempo and left when only five more were required.
Most of the other batsmen struggled against the wiles of Chawla, a 16-year-old legspinner from Uttar Pradesh. Not too many bowlers deceive Sachin Tendulkar with a googly and to sneak one in through the gate, as Tendulkar tried to cut, was a stunning sight. Chawla, who came into bowl within the first ten overs, continued to toss the ball up, rip it past the bat and was comfortable both over and around the wicket. Sreesanth too continued his fine showing with the ball - coming back after a pasting in the first two overs to finish with 3 for 32 and always steaming in - that only delayed the inevitable.
The scales, though, tilted earlier in the day when India B stuttered against Zaheer and Kartik. Their problems began right at the top with Robin Uthappa, who produced a blink-and-you'll-miss-it hundred yesterday, slashing airily at a full-pitched one as Mohammad Kaif completed a straightforward chance. Kaif, though, had to hobble off in the 9th over owing to a hamstring pull and didn't take part in the game therafter. Sridharan Sriram experienced a similar fate and his dismissal was almost a mirror image of the first wicket.
And the road got bumpier when Dinesh Mongia, the captain, cut recklessly, just like he had done in their first game, and offered a simple chance to the backward-point fielder. The rest of the innings was based on slow-moving partnerships as India B tried to post a modest total. Shikhar Dhawan and Yousuf Pathan weathered a tough period but both fell just after they appeared to have found their groove. Parthiv Patel impressed one again, , with some punchy strokeplay, but was unlucky to be given out lbw when he got an inside edge to an incoming ball from Kartik.
Ravikant Shukla was solid in his patient 26, made off 71 balls without a single boundary, but the rest fell around him while going for the big hits. With Kartik bowling with such accuracy, though, they didn't stand a chance.
Robin Uthappa c Kaif b Zaheer 9 (13 for 1)
Slashed straight to cover
Sridharan Sriram c Rao b Zaheer 8 (29 for 2)
Chipped a full ball straight to cover
Dinesh Mongia c Yadav b Harbhajan 7 (43 for 3)
Top-edged a cut and caught at backward point
Yousuf Pathan c Tendulkar b Harbhajan 20 (70 for 4)
Edged a doosra straight into the hands of first slip
Shikhar Dhawan c Dhoni b Zaheer 26 (91 for 5)
Snicked a short of a good length ball to the wicketkeeper
Parthiv Patel lbw b Kartik 39 (141 for 6)
Got an inside edge to one that spun back and was unlucky to be given out
Sunny Singh b Kartik 5 (150 for 7)
Piyush Chawla st Dhoni b Kartik 5 (157 for 8)
Danced down the track and tried to loft
Amit Bhandari st Dhoni b Kartik 4 (164 for 9)
Came down the track and missed
Sreesanth st Dhoni b Kartik 5 (177 all out)
Came down the track and was beaten
Sachin Tendulkar b Chawla 22 (46 for 1)
Tries to cut a googly but the ball sneaks through the gate
Yuvraj Singh c Shukla b Chawla 5 (67 for 2)
Flicked a legbreak straight into the hands of the short-leg fielder
Venugopal Rao c Parthiv b Sreesanth 18 (113 for 3)
Slashed at a wide one and top-edged to the wicketkeeper
Mahendra Singh Dhoni st Patel b Chawla 6 (122 for 4)
Advanced down the track and tried to loft over mid-on
Jai Prakash Yadav c Uthappa b Mongia 10 (143 for 5)
Chipped to midwicket and Uthappa dived forward splendidly
S Vidyut b Sreesanth 87 (173 for 6)
Missed a straight one trying to loft
Satyajit Parab b Sreesanth 4 (177 for 7)
Yorker ricochets off his pads onto the stumps
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo