All-round Kerala finishes on a high

The Kerala bowlers, led by Basil Thampi, completed the job after the batsmen had posted a 300-plus score batting first.

Sachin Baby helped Kerala post a 300-plus total with a stroke-filled 72-ball 93.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

A clinical, all-round performance took Kerala to a 46-run victory over Saurashtra in a final-round Group ‘B’ contest at the Air Force Complex here.

Chasing 317 for victory, Saurashtra was bowled out for 270 in the final over, seamer Thampi and left-arm spinner Akshay K. C. the wreckers-in-chief. Saurashtra may have fancied its chances if the last contest – a run-fest clinched by Kerala in the final over – was an indicator. That it was going to be an uphill struggle was evident when Thampi got rid of the openers cheaply. The damage was done by the spinners in the middle overs; their combined effort nipped any potentially ominous partnership in the bud, before Thampi and Akshay K. C. laid their finishing touches.

As it happened

No. 3 Samarth Vyas’ late assault (91, 96b, 8X4, 5X6), although entertaining, was too little, too late. It reduced the margin of defeat after Saurashtra struggled at 193 for 9 in the 42 over.

When the team had a chance to lay the foundation, spinners put a spanner in the works. First, left-arm spinner Akshay Chandran ended the burgeoning partnership of 48 between Vyas and A. A. Barot. A little while later, two quick wickets fell to Thampi, further derailing the chase - Arpit Vasavada fell to Akshay K. C. in the 21st over, and Jay Chauhan for a duck to Saxena.

Chirag Jani, with an enterprising knock, kept the team in the hunt, but when Thampi dismissed two more in a single over – the 30, the contest looked well and truly over.

Eventually, Jani also fell as his team lost wickets quickly.

The Kerala innings, in contrast, had noteworthy contributions from all five of its top five batsmen in the line-up. Their effort was embellished by a quickfire 38 (14b, 4X4, 3X6) from K. B. Arun Karthik, batting at No. 7.

Sachin Baby laid the anchor with his knock of 93 (72b, 6X4, 6X6), with Sanju Samson (30, 28b, 1X4, 2X6) giving him good support. In the business end of the innings, when Baby and the next batsman Salman Nizar got out in the same over to left-arm spinner Jay Chauhan (3 for 63), Arun Karthik took his license to accelerate.

It rose up to a crescendo as Kerala went past the 300-mark. It turned out to be comfortably enough.

BRIEF SCORES

Kerala 316 for 7 in 50 overs (Sachin Baby 93, Vishnu Vinod 62, V. A. Jagadeesh 41, Jay Chauhan 3 for 63) beat Saurashtra 270 in 49.3 overs (Samarth Vyas 91, Chirag Jani 66, Basil Thampi 4 for 52, Akshay K. C. 3 for 69)