Akshdeep Nath: ‘I wanted to stay till the end’

Akshdeep Nath struck his fourth List A century, a blitzkrieg that took the wind out of the sails of Andhra’s fast bowlers and almost took his team to a win.

Uttar Pradesh's Akshdeep Nath in action as plays a shot against Andhra at a Vijay Hazare Trophy match at Airforce Complex Ground in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Akshdeep Nath was keen to prevent Uttar Pradesh from crumbling when he came in to bat in the 24th over in Uttar Pradesh’s Group ‘B’ contest against Andhra on Saturday. Nath struck his fourth List A century (119, 79b, 9X4, 5X6), a blitzkrieg that took the wind out of the sails of Andhra’s fast bowlers and almost took his team to a win.

It was an unassuming start to his knock, and after the contest, he revealed the early cautiousness was necessary.

After playing an innings of 52 and looking good for much more, captain Suresh Raina had fallen against the run of play to seamer Ayyappa Bandaru. Two days ago, the team had lost its plot after Raina’s dismissal in its chase of 229 against Kerala.

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Nath joined hands with the opener Samarth, who had settled in nicely, and batted vigilantly for a while.

“In the last match, after Raina had got out, I had also been dismissed. I wished to avoid that from happening again. I wanted to stay till the end,” Nath told Sportstar.

The early part of his knock went mostly unnoticed. He nudged the ball around for singles. The humdrum proceedings ended by the 34th over bowled by leg-spinner Karn Sharma. Nath came close to being dismissed; first, he came down to the track and missed the ball, which travelled past the wicket-keeper for a boundary, and later in the same over, he survived a loud leg-before-wicket shout.

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Karn had been bowling well, Nath acknowledged. “We had planned not to target Karn as he was bowling very well. Once his spell was over [with about seven overs left in the innings], I knew the fast bowlers [Ayyappa Bandaru and K. V. Sasikanth] would bowl, and then I went for my shots,” Nath said.

Nath changed his gear from the 36th over. He played a paddle sweep and a pull for two boundaries. Samarth took over, collecting boundaries with stylish shots off off-spinner Shoaib and Bandaru. The two took turns to hit boundaries off the fast bowlers as the innings drifted to its business end.

In the 46th over, Nath hit three boundaries off Sasikanth’s short deliveries which were sitting up and waiting to be smacked. As the cheers from the crowd became louder, the big hits became more frequent. A six and a four in the 47th over took Nath to 92; he was closing in on his partner, who was batting on 98.

As it happened

Sasikanth was milked for singles and twos with a number of flicks off Sasikanth’s full deliveries in the 48th over. Samarth had reached his century, off 125 deliveries.

In the next over, guiding a delivery to third man, Nath celebrated his own century; he had taken only 74 deliveries to get to the mark. He celebrated it by smacking the fast bowler for six to finish the over.

The final over was prolific, too. Samarth hit back-to-back sixes off two full tosses – one was deposited to cow corner and the other went beyond the extra-cover boundary. Later, Nath pulled off an audacious ramp shot for another six, and slogged straight down the ground for a boundary.

He had enjoyed himself on a good pitch to bat on.

“The [pitch] was the best to bat on. In the early part of the tournament, there was dampness here, but this particular pitch was good. It was a flat track,” Nath said.

With his accurate, military medium bowling, Nath claimed three wickets in the next half of the contest. Yet, through D. Ravi Teja’s enterprising innings and a lower-order belligerence, Andhra clinched the contest in the final over.

The frantic run-making in the death overs included some streaky shots. Bluntly, Nath pointed out there was a “luck factor” in the win.

As there was in his innings. Yet, despite his team’s loss, this contest had Nath’s stamp all over it. A good day at the office.