Thriller in Agartala
The first thriller of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season was played out in front of empty stands at a college ground in Agartala. Tripura escaped with a battling last-wicket draw, finishing on 202 for 9 while chasing 226. Vineet Jain and Jayanta Debnath used up 11.2 overs to stave off defeat. In the first instalment of a new series, Cricinfo spoke to a few who where there.
Services were put in to bat on an underprepared wicket and only their debutant, Devendra Israni, crossed 25 as they were shot out for 102
Yashpal Singh, Services' captain: It was a very soft wicket, there was a lot of moisture, and we collapsed. Israni played really well at No. 3 but we lost wickets regularly at the other end.
Tripura ended the first day on 93 for 2, just ten runs short of taking the lead with eight wickets intact, but the script went awfully wrong for them the next morning and they ended up with just 198.
Sameer Dighe, Tripura's coach: That was the turning point. We should have reached 300 and got a 200-run lead. We lost a great opportunity.
Vineet Jain, Tripura medium-pacer When you bowl the opposition out for just over 100 on the first day, you expect an outright victory. But hum vahi galti kar bete (we made a mistake there) as we didn't take a big lead. By the time our innings ended, the wicket had started to ease up a touch and they played very well in the second innings.
Tahir Khan, Services' opener, struck 66 and shared a 65-run opening stand with Soumik Chatterjee before Yashpal's tenth first-class hundred guided Services to safety. Tripura were set a target of 226.
Dighe: There was a discussion going on at a break. The boys were asking, "Should we go for runs or not?" I told them, don't worry, I don't think we need to chase this, just keep a target of playing five overs at a time. Don't worry about the big picture. Then, without realising it, you will have played 25 overs and 70 runs would have come. And automatically you come near the target. The wicket eased up in the second innings.
Jain: We were going to chase that score. Dighe said, go for it. We have a long batting line-up, so 226 was not a tough target.
Paaji, dekho aisa hai, kuch be ho sakta, this is a one-ball game now, hum apni game khelenge, dekhten hain kya hota". (Look, anything can happen, let's just play our game and see what happens)
Jayanta Debnath to Vineet Jain
Jain: We got one or two bad decisions and ended up in a bad position. We lost wickets too quickly.
Dighe: We were worried whether we could hold on or not. We were looking to play out the overs. Later we had a partnership and we thought we could go for it. I told the boys, play according to the situation, don't panic, the runs will come automatically, focus on saving your wickets. As the runs come they [Services] will also be under pressure.
Rajesh Banik and Rajib Dutta stitched together a 71-run partnership to raise Tripura's hopes
Jain: Dutta is a very capable batsman and Banik is our main batsman. They played well and put us in a good position, but again we lost quick wickets. We were still positive and thinking about a win as long as Tushar Saha [No. 9] was there.
Yashpal: Even in that Dutta-Banik partnership, there were a couple of close decisions that didn't go our way. And Banik actually fell to a wrong decision. I was the bowler.
Dutta fell in the 63rd over with the score on 172 and Saha went a couple of overs later to leave Tripura at a perilous 177 for 9
Dighe: Unfortunately Tushar Saha got out. There was a single on offer in that over [in which he fell] but Vineet Jain didn't take it and Saha got out. These things happen. Otherwise we would have gone for the win. Jain is a senior cricketer who has played for Haryana for three to four years. He is a real fighter and they played superbly. I just told them not to worry about the mandatory overs and put unwanted pressure on themselves. Earlier it was five overs at a time, now, I told them just concentrate ball by ball.
Jain: The ball was not doing much. We didn't have to worry about any delivery being unplayable and getting us out. Of course there was pressure, given the match situation and all the close-in fielders around us. We kept talking to each other; in fact even Debnath was encouraging me, "Paaji, dekho aisa hai, kuch bhi ho sakta, this is a one-ball game now, hum apni game khelenge, dekhten hain kya hota hai". (Look, anything can happen, let's just play our game and see what happens.)
The two played out eight mandatory overs before appealing for bad light
Jain: In the east of India, you can expect bad light around 4pm. The penultimate over was bowled by a medium-pacer [Fazil Mohammed] and we protested to the umpires that we couldn't see properly. The light meters were brought out.
Yashpal: Perhaps I should not have used Mohammed, but I thought if he could take a wicket it would be all over. But they played him out and then the light meters came out. I was worried that they would offer the light soon, even if I didn't use the medium-pacer, so I went with Mohammed.
Jain: The umpires seemed to agree with us and, after just one over of spin, they were convinced that the light was not good to play spinners also. A few minutes after 4pm they decided to call it off.
Dighe: It was a tense game and the players will benefit by the experience. Teams like Tripura need to play lots of cricket around the country and learn from various match experiences. I am happy with the way the boys handled the situation and the pressure on the last day.