There were apprehensions about how the new teams, stepping into the first-class structure for the first time, would fare in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. But on the first day of the tournament, the teams proved their mettle, playing some good cricket.
Returning to the arena after 18 long years, Bihar started its campaign in style, defeating Nagaland by eight wickets at the Shastri Maidan in Anand. At the Motibagh Stadium in Vadodara, Puducherry toyed with Manipur, beating it by eight wickets. The third game of the Plate group saw Arunachal Pradesh get the better of Mizoram by four wickets at the GS Patel Stadium in Nadiad.
At Anand, Nagaland won the toss and opted to bat first. Its opener Nitesh Lochab played a knock of 79 to help his side reach 253-8 as Imliwati Lemtur - a PT teacher by profession - remained unbeaten on 45. Samar Quadri was Bihar's standout bowler, picking 3-35.
In reply, a gritty century by Babul Kumar (not out, 121) and by Keshav Kumar's solid knock of 76 in 69 balls, helped Bihar across the line with eight wickets in hand.
Coach Subroto Banerjee was excited about his team's performance. “Babul and Keshav played brilliantly. This is just the start and we need to be careful in the next few matches. It is a long tournament and we can’t afford to make errors,” Banerjee, who was the coach of Vidarbha’s Ranji Trophy-winning team last year, told Sportstar .
Puducherry too had a remarkable start. Winning the toss and opting to bowl, Puducherry bundled out Manipur for 120 in 37.1 overs. Sarang Udheshi scalped four wickets for 20 runs. In reply Shashank Singh played an unbeaten knock of 63 to help his team home, losing only two wickets.
The biggest surprise of day was Arunachal's win over Mizoram. With no ground or facilities available in the state, the players from Arunachal had a tough time before the season. With guest recruits Samarth Seth (107 off 126 balls) and Kshitiz Sharma (61 off 56 deliveries) holding fort, the team had a rather easy win over Mizoram. Batting first, Mizoram put up 234-8, with Taruwar Kohli playing a knock of 127. In reply, Arunachal reached the target in 47 overs, with four wickets in hand.
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Arunachal Pradesh coach, Gursharan Singh, was happy with the way his team fared in the tournament opener. “It is a good thing to begin with. The wicket was not easy to bat on, but the boys showed grit. They are always wiling to learn and I told them to play till 50 overs and they were able to execute the plans properly,” said Singh. “You have to be focused and that’s going to be the key,” the former India international said.
Bihar vs Uttarakhand (in Anand)
Sikkim vs Manipur (in Vadodara)
Meghalaya vs Mizoram (in Nadiad).
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