Jammu & Kashmir needed two runs in the final over to shock Delhi in their opening game of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Samiullah Beigh paddled Pawan Negi for a single, and then J&K's No. 10 batsman Ram Dayal jumped out to hit a four over mid-off and secure the victory. It was only the third time they had beaten Delhi in a List A match, yet the celebrations at the Luhnu Cricket Ground in Bilaspur stopped at cheerful smiles and high-fives.
A little over a month ago, life in the Kashmir Valley and majority of Jammu had been severely disrupted because of a devastating flood. Instead of preparing for the upcoming domestic season, some J&K players were paddling makeshift rafts and using overhanging electric cables to negotiate submerged streets. The Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar was under 10 feet of water. The Science College ground in Jammu was badly damaged too.
The Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) sought the BCCI's help to move the squad's preparatory camp to Mohali in the last week of October. The camp was conducted by Sunil Joshi, the former Karnataka and India left-arm spinner who was appointed J&K coach last month. After the chaos and the struggle of the last few months, the players understand the significance of the win against Delhi.
"We have been brought up in a tough life. We are mentally tough," Beigh, the J&K arllounder, told ESPNcricinfo. He, along with his captain Parvez Rasool, was a key performer in the victory against Delhi.
Beigh knocked the top off the Delhi battingline-up, dismissing Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Unmkut Chand. Having failed to find control during a short first spell, Beigh switched ends successfully, claiming 3 for 8 in his last six overs. Delhi slipped from 59 for 0 to 74 for 3. "Against Viru bhai I bowled from wide of the crease an inswinger and he edged to the keeper. Bowling from round the stumps I swung the ball late to bowl Gauti bhai," Beigh said. "I again went wide of the crease to Unmukt and he edged behind the stumps."
Chasing 213, J&K started nervously and fell to 31 for 3. Their captain Rasool regained the initiative with an attacking 74 that included 12 boundaries, and Beigh began his innings 52 runs from victory. He had a vital 44-run stand with Waseem Raza for the eighth wicket. When the scores were tied Beigh told Deyal to go for a big hit. "Because even if he were to be caught I would cross and get on strike," Beigh said. "I did not want him to get lbw or bowled. It was smart thinking from both of us. He hit over mid-off for a four."
Beigh said the win was a "monkey off the back" because J&K had lost the advantage from winning positions in few matches last season. "We were not able to finish the games. Last year we lost a few tight matches from winning positions. So this time I made sure my partners were calm and made sure we played with the straight bat."
Beigh said the celebrations were muted also because it was only a starting point. "We did not celebrate much over this win because we have a bigger goal. We know we have a decent side and can easily reach the final."
Joshi said the victory showed the character and resilience of the J&K unit. "It is just the beginning. The players deserve every bit of this victory. They really need this moment especially keeping in mind what happened in J&K recently (floods). They fought very, very hard in every department and they won. They are talented and they have shown that by beating a star-studded Delhi team."
ML Nehru, the JKCA secretary, said the victory would inject much-needed determination to the team because J&K will be playing all their matches outside home this season. "Normally we had planned to play inter-provincial matches, which we could not hold. But despite that it is quite remarkable on the part of the players to register this win.
"We are requesting the BCCI to release subsidy since we have a lost a lot of ground equipment. The Sher-e-Kashmir stadium was submerged under 10 feet of water for a long time. So we want the BCCI to visit and examine the losses and accordingly help us out."