Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Pujara, Basil put up their best show

With a back injury troubling him, this season had been a letdown for Basil, who began as a footballer before moving to cricket at 17. He did not play a single Ranji game this season and he did not have much to talk about the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy matches either.

Basil Thampi took his maiden four-wicket haul in T20.   -  Thulasi Kakkat

Quite frequently, one noticed a small odd jump as mediumpacer Basil Thampi began his run-up at the St. Paul’s College ground here on Monday.

If it was some sort of excitement, one could understand. For the 22-year-old Kochi lad hit a T20 high, taking his maiden four-wicket haul, as Kerala thrashed Tripura by eight wickets for its third consecutive victory in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

Sanju Samson, the host’s trump card, also had a good outing, scoring his first half century of this year’s tournament and putting on a 96-run stand for the second wicket with Rohan Prem, which paved the way for an easy win.

With a back injury troubling him, this season had been a letdown for Basil, who began as a footballer before moving to cricket at 17. He did not play a single Ranji game this season and he did not have much to talk about the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy matches either.

Now fully fit, Basil, who trains at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, is back to his best. The youngster had been called for trials by the Mumbai Indians a week ago and with his best performance coming at a time when the Mumbai team coach Robin Singh is in Kochi to have a close look at promising players before the IPL auction, should do him a lot of good.

“Tinu Yohanan sir (Kerala bowling coach) is a big help. He advised me not give room for the batsmen and to try to bowl inside, especially when batsmen intend to cut and pull,” said Basil.

Meanwhile, Cheteshwar Pujara slammed a career-best 81 off 55 balls with five sixes and five fours, as Saurashtra thrashed Jammu and Kashmir by 73 runs for its second straight win. He also had a 70-run fourth-wicket stand with Chirag Jani. Left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja also stood out in the team’s win with three wickets.

Pujara’s total alone was almost enough to beat J&K which suffered its third straight loss. The Indian star also impressed as a fielder, with a nice catch and a run-out.

“When I’m playing my shots, it won’t look like I’m slogging but I’m getting runs, getting sixes and fours. That’s my game,” said Pujara. “Ultimately, what you need is strike rates and a decent amount of runs on the board. How you get it hardly matters. If you hit a 70-80-metre six or if you hit a 100-metre six, it hardly matters as long as you’re hitting sixes and fours.”