India C pulled out its A-game on Saturday to have the better of a run-fest at the Ferozeshah Kotla here. After its openers – Ajinkya Rahane (144 n.o., 156b, 9X4, 3X6) and Ishan Kishan (114, 87b, 11X4, 6X6) – helped gain a big total, left-arm spinner Pappu Roy broke the back of India B’s batting, taking three crucial top-order wickets, to pave the way for a comfortable win.
Shreyas Iyer (148, 114b, 11X4, 8X6) kept India B in the hunt with a scintillating century but couldn’t take his team across the line for what would have been an improbable victory.
Chasing 353, the highest target set by the team batting first in the tourney, India B was off to a rapid start. The in-form Mayank Agarwal fell cheaply to fast bowler Rajneesh Gurbani, and captain Shreyas Iyer held fort via a useful partnership of 116 with Ruturaj Gaikwad for the second wicket.
Fours and sixes, many of them disdainful, were aplenty. The team was well in the hunt to clinch its chase by the 22nd over, when Gaikwad paid the price for hitting one big stroke too many off the wily Roy, who was leaking runs and under pressure. Attempting to smash Roy for a six down the ground off a deceptive, flighted delivery, Gaikwad mistimed his hit and holed out to the long-off fielder.
It proved to be a turning point in the contest, sparking a minor collapse. Hanuma Vihari, who had back-to-back fifties in his kitty before this contest, provided Roy with his second wicket. Again, Roy enticed the batsman with flight, and Vihari responded by lofting him straight down the throat of the long-off fielder.
Defiant Iyer falls
Wickets fell in regular intervals thereafter, but a major thorn in the flesh –Iyer – kept his team in the hunt with a spectacular century. Sixes rained from his bat, most of them in the leg-side arc – square leg, midwicket, and down the ground.
By the 40th over, India B was six down. Iyer was a one-man army and looking ominous. As he admitted after the contest, “I wanted to play the anchor role.” He played the nonchalant flick for six to square leg off seamer Navdeep Saini in the 41st over, and followed this up with two sixes straight down the ground off legspinner Rahul Chahar.
44 runs were needed off 7.1 overs with four wickets in hand – the contest was still open. But on the last ball of Chahar’s over, Iyer attempted a sweep and gained a top-edge; it was caught by Roy at short fine-leg. It was one-way traffic after that, the tail unable to conjure the big hits needed.
READ | Ranji Trophy: Iyer to lead Mumbai against Railways
Earlier, Rahane and Kishan scored contrasting centuries to set India C on the path to a big total. Rahane paced his innings well and enjoyed the ball coming on to his bat from the fast bowlers; Kishan, on the other hand, endured an indifferent start to his innings before opening up spectacularly from the 14th over onwards.
Kishan outscored his more distinguished batting partner, skipping down the track repeatedly to the spinners. He enjoyed toying with the spinners – Mayank Markande, K. Gowtham, Shahbaz Nadeem and Manoj Tiwary were all taken for runs.
His dismissal in the 31st over allowed Rahane to take control of the proceedings. He stuck till the end, proving the ideal foil for Suryakumar Yadav’s fireworks in the end.
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