Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Jharkhand stun Kerala

The victory helped Jharkhand finish level with Kerala on 20 points and take the second Super League spot from the Group ‘B’ here but the host, which had a superior net run-rate, finished as the group winner.

Ishank Jaggi (right) and Kaushal Singh, with an unbeaten 79-run fifth-wicket stand, carried Jharkhand to a stunning victory over hosts Kerala.   -  Thulasi Kakkat

After some brilliant performances over the last few days that carried them to the top of the group, Kerala lowered their guard towards the end and lost to Jharkhand by six wickets in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy National T20 Cricket Championship at the St. Paul’s College ground here on Sunday evening.

The victory helped Jharkhand finish level with Kerala on 20 points and take the second Super League spot from the Group ‘B’ here but the host, which had a superior net run-rate, finished as the group winner.

But clearly, it was not the perfect finish many had felt that the hosts were capable of. Not after Sanju Samson’s scintillating and career-best 87 off 53 balls, which came with four sixes and nine fours. Samson’s 89-run second-wicket stand with Rohan Prem (47 off 31 balls, 3x6, 5x4) also carried Kerala to their highest total in the championship’s current edition.

Certainly, Jharkhand was desperate – for a loss to the hosts would have helped Saurashtra qualify for the Super League – but there were many moments when the hosts appeared generous too.

Left-arm spinner P. Prasanth, the hosts’ top wicket-taker who had conceded just 11 and 13 runs in the last two games while picking up three wickets each against Punjab and Saurashtra, conceded 42 runs from his four overs today. Medium-pacer Manu Krishnan leaked 37 while part-time bowler V. A. Jagadeesh gave away 44.

And Kerala, which had conceded a total of just 14 wides from its previous five matches, gave away 12 in their last game today. The discipline which the team’s coach had spoken about last evening was clearly missing today.

For the desperate Jharkhand, it was like manna from heaven. Even the exit of the hard-hitting Saurabh Tiwary, the third to fall, did not rattle the visitors.

“After Saurabh, we have (Ishank) Jaggi, Kaushal and Kumar Deobrat… all are pretty good batsmen, capable of scoring runs. So, I was pretty confident of winning,” said the Jharkhand captain Shahbaz Nadeem, one of the bowlers who suffered heavy caning when Samson was on a rampage earlier. “And the wicket seemed to be very good. So, I was thinking if we could play till the 20th over, we could win.”

Jharkhand’s Ishank Jaggi and Kaushal Singh were on a rampage too, belting fast bowlers Manu, Sandeep Warrier and spinner Prasanth for sixes as they put on an unbeaten 79-run fifth-wicket stand that carried the visitors to a comfortable victory.

Earlier Saurashtra, also a desperate side, defeated Punjab by 19 runs but in the end, it was in vain. Punjab fought hard and Himanshu Chawla raised hopes with his exciting 54 from just 27 balls (3x6, 6x4), but his exit closed a crucial door.

> Kerala lost to Jharkhand (Full scorecard and ball-by-ball-details)

> Saurashtra bt Punjab (Full scorecard and ball-by-ball-details)

> Rajasthan bt Jammu & Kashmir (Full scorecard and ball-by-ball-details)