Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Kerala makes it four out of four

Kerala is now the only unbeaten side in the seven-team Group-B, and Wednesday’s victory carried it a step closer to the super league berth. Only two teams make the grade for the next stage.

While Rohan Prem scored 56, captain Sachin Baby scored 43.   -  Stan Rayan

As Nikhilesh Surendran raced to his left and pulled off a diving catch, the Kerala team jumped in joy. Gone was Saurashtra’s India star Cheteshwar Pujara, the danger man, and the host had grabbed the upper hand.

Pujara’s dismissal, for just 26, was the turning point as Kerala thrashed Saurashtra by 50 runs for its fourth consecutive victory from as many games in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy National T20 cricket championship at the St. Paul’s College ground, Kalamassery, on Wednesday.

Kerala is now the only unbeaten side in the seven-team Group-B, and Wednesday’s victory carried it a step closer to the super league berth. Only two teams make the grade for the next stage.

The work done by the two left-handers Rohan Prem and captain Sachin Baby, who put on an 85-run third-wicket partnership, helped the team to 165, its highest total in the championship’s current edition.

With Sandeep Patil, the BCCI’s chairman of selectors, watching the action, Sachin — who finds a place in the India ‘B’ team for this month’s Deodhar Trophy — and Rohan had a party. The two were particularly severe on medium-pacer Sharya Sanandia and spinner K.R. Makwana, belting them for sixes and fours.

Rohan completed his second half century in the current edition but Sanju Samson disappointed, making his exit with just a single.

With the healthy total to back them and some impressive fielding too, the Kerala bowlers were also able to do their job confidently.

While left-arm paceman Manu Krishnan, who was playing his first T20 match this year, played havoc with the Saurashtra top order taking three of the first four wickets, left-arm spinner Prasanth finished with three too including that of Pujara’s.

Jaydev Unadkat, the left-arm paceman who last played for India in 2013, was Saurashtra’s top run-getter with 32. It came off just 20 balls (2x6, 3x4) and while his stay offered a grand treat, Kerala was never under any threat.

“Whenever we play a stronger side, we raise our performance; it comes from within. Saurashtra is a quality side, so we were high on motivation,” said Kerala captain Sachin.

Punjab gets a new star

Earlier Punjab, despite its best batsman Mandeep Singh suffering an injury and Indian star Yuvraj Singh taking a break, crushed Jharkhand by seven wickets for its second win from three matches.

Pargat Singh, a 23-year-old who made his State debut in all formats of cricket this season, was Punjab’s new star, scoring a sensible 60 which included eight boundaries.

BRIEF SCORES

Kerala 165 for nine in 20 overs (Rohan Prem 56, Sachin Baby 43, Raiphi Vincent Gomez 25 n.o., Jaydev Unadkat three for 23, Shaurya Sanandia two for 29, Chirag Jani two for 25) beat Saurashtra 115 for nine in 20 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 26, Jaydev Unadkat 32, Manu Krishnan three for 11, P. Prasanth three for 13, V.A. Jagadeesh two for 21).

Jharkhand 104 for nine in 20 overs (Virat Singh 41, Siddharth Kaul two for 23, Gurinder Singh two for 24, Harbhajan Singh two for 16) lost to Punjab 105 for three in 17.3 overs (Pargat Singh 60, Gitansh Khera 22, Prakash Seed two for 31).

Jammu & Kashmir 119 in 19.1 overs (Bandeep Singh 33, Mithun Manhas 21, S.S. Majumder three for 17, C.K. Paul two for 15) lost to Tripura 121 for six in 18.2 overs (S.M. Singha 45, M.B. Mura Singh 23 n.o., Pervez Rasool three for 25, Omar Alam two for 19).