<
>

Nikhil Gangta, spinners drive India Blue to Duleep title

Nikhil Gangta pulls during his 99 ESPNcricinfo Ltd

India Blue needed just 10.4 overs on the fourth day to wrap up an innings-and-187-run victory against India Red in the Duleep Trophy final in Dindigul.

Blue had won the toss at the NPR College ground and piled up 541 in 167.3 overs, riding on Nikhil Gangta's 130 from No. 7 in a remarkable lower-order revival, after they were reduced to 284 for 6. Swapnil Singh then took 5 for 58 with his left-arm spin to shoot out Red for 182. Blue captain Faiz Fazal enforced the follow on, and Red fared just as poorly in their second innings.

Resuming from an overnight 128 for 5, still trailing by 231 runs, Red lost three wickets inside the first four overs on day four, and any hope they might have had of mounting a fightback evaporated. Eventually, they were bowled out for 172 in 38.4 overs, with the spin duo of Saurabh Kumar and Deepak Hooda taking five wickets each.

Left-arm spinner Saurabh's 5 for 51 was his second five-wicket haul in two matches and took his tally to 19 wickets, the highest in the tournament. Hooda took 5 for 56 with his part-time offspin, his best innings figures in first-class cricket.

When the match began on Tuesday, Blue had a somewhat wobbly start, losing their top four inside 42 overs to be 107 for 4. The first rebuilding effort was undertaken by Ricky Bhui (60) and Anmolpreet Singh, who added 144 before Anmolpreet fell for 96 just before stumps on the first day.

Gangta then shepherded the lower order with all of Swapnil (69), Saurabh (36) and Jaydev Unadkat (24) making useful contributions as Blue put up a formidable total.

Red then lost their captain Abhinav Mukund, bowled by Dhawal Kulkarni in the ten overs they had to bat on the second day, and unravelled quickly on the third day. B Sandeep's 57 at No.3 was the only score above 20 among the top seven, with Kulkarni and Hooda taking two wickets apiece to complement Swapnil's five.

Red fared even worse in their second innings. Abhinav's 46 was the highest score of the innings, and Ishan Kishan made 30 while Sandeep made 22, but no other batsman made more than 15.

In addition to the highest wicket-taker in Saurabh, Blue also had the top run-getter of the tournament in Dhruv Shorey, who made 293 runs in five innings at an average of 58.60. Sanjay Ramaswamy, the Red opener, was second with 267 runs in six innings, while no other batsman totalled more than 200 in conditions where spinners thrived.