Railway storm into Ranji Trophy final for second time
Railways stormed into the final of the coveted Ranji Trophy championship beating Punjab by 5 wickets at the PCA stadium in Mohali on Monday. This is the second entry of Railways into the title clash and comes after a gap of 13 years.
Resuming at six without loss in pursuit of a target of 199, the visitors began on a cautious note as they scored only 55 runs in the first session in which 36 overs were bowled. This was primarily done to ensure that the Punjab team did not get an early breakthrough and run through the Railways innings. The overnight batsmen Amit Pagnis and Sanjay Bangar successfully negotiated the opening spell of Gagandeep and Vineet Sharma.
Spin was introduced as early as the 11th over to make use of the bowlers' footmarks. The opening pair took the score to 47 runs before Pagnis, who struck two elegant boundaries of Sandeep Sawal, offered a simple return catch to the left arm spinner Babloo Kumar, as he tried to play the bowler towards midon.
Tejinder Pal Singh who joined Pagnis, struck Sandeep Sawal through covers to open his account. A spanking straight drive by Tejinder off Munish Sharma was the shot of the day; none of the fielders budged as the ball raced to the fence. The partnership between Tejinder and Sanjay Bangar tilted the match in favour of Railways but with the score on 110, Tejinder (34, 4x4) offered a simple catch to substitute Dinesh Mongia, who was the lone fielder in the slip cordon.
Yere Goud, known for his cool temperament proved to be an able ally to Bangar as both of them kept the scoreboard moving by taking singles and twos. They carried the total to 125 when Bangar needlessly chased a wide delivery from Gagandeep only to be caught by wicket keeper Vikram Rathore for an individual contribution of 47. Skipper Abhay Sharma scored a boundary and a towering six off Sandeep Sawal. However, the bowler had the last laugh as he had Sharma caught in the slips by Mongia for 17 at the stroke of tea.
At the score of 168, umpire S.Banerjee ruled Yere Goud leg before as the batsman tried to play a full pitched delivery from Reetinder Sodhi half cock. The usually dependable Goud had contributed 25 runs off 66 balls including four hits to the fence. With 31 runs still required for victory, there was a slight flutter in the Railways camp.
But Raza Ali had other ideas, striking six boundaries in the course of an unbeaten 32, with his winning shot coming off Sandeep Sawal. Shreyas Khanolkar remain unbeaten on 12 as Railways clinched the issue just four balls before the mandatory overs were to begin. For Punjab Gagandeep, Sodhi, Vineet Sharma, Babloo Kumar and Sandeep Sawal claimed one wicket each.