Assam’s fairytale run continued as it stunned Punjab by 51 runs for its maiden entry into the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy. At the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium here on Saturday morning, seamer Arup Das prised out the last two wickets in 18 minutes to set off an explosion of joy both on the field and off it. The seamer finished with 11 for 124, including a jaw-dropping eight for 83 in the second innings.
When play began, Punjab needed 64 runs for an unlikely win. And there was no way Assam was going to allow that. Das took it upon himself to seal the deal by removing wicketkeeper-batsman Gitansh Khera, who failed to add to his overnight tally of 35. The last wicket, of No. 11 Deepak Bansal, fell only 10 deliveries later. Like he got rid of Khera, Das brought the ball in to trap the right-hander in front of the wicket.
The Assam players rushed to the far corner of the field, their cries of ecstasy reverberating through this intimate venue which boasts, arguably, the most sporting pitch in India.
The party soon shifted to the area outside the dressing room where many a player, including Das got an ice bath.
Das, who also completed 100 wickets in the Ranji Trophy, cut a chocolate cake in the confines of the dressing room.
Credit must go to the Punjab team, too, which fought back in emphatic fashion in the second half of the contest. Skipper Harbhajan Singh was gracious in defeat. In fact, he was the first to congratulate the victorious boys from the east.
Assam coach Sanath Kumar, who hails from Karnataka, attributed his team’s success to its never-say-die spirit, focus on processes and incredible sense of camaraderie. “There are no big teams or small teams, big players or small players. I have drilled this into them. We just do our thing, keep the basics right and focus on the process. The results are there to see,” he said.
Assam’s Gujarat ‘darshan’ is set to continue as it will now travel to Vadodara for the semifinal against Saurashtra. “We are ready for it,” Kumar declared.
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