Ranji Trophy: Kerala outclasses Saurashtra to inch closer to knockout berth

Kerala took another step towards a possible qualification into the knockout stage as it notched up an emphatic 310-run win over Saurashtra in the Group B Ranji Trophy match at the St. Xavier’s -KCA cricket ground, Thumba, on Monday.

Sanju Samson has led from the front to give Kerala maintain consistency.   -  Special Arrangement

Kerala took another step towards a possible qualification into the knockout stage as it notched up an emphatic 310-run win over Saurashtra in the Group B Ranji Trophy match at the St. Xavier’s -KCA cricket ground, Thumba, on Monday.

This was Kerala’s fourth win in five matches and having gained six points, the home side is now in the second position in the seven-team group with 24 points, with one more match in hand, against Haryana starting on November 25.

Saurashtra, which was the table topper with 23 points, has been pushed to the third spot following the heavy defeat.

Left to bat out the entire final day to save the match and seal its progress into the quarterfinals, aided by the vital first innings it held, Saurashtra never showed the required inclination to fight it out against the Kerala spinning trio of Jalaj Saxena, Sijomon Joseph and K.C. Akshay, who attacked with gusto and was supported well by the close-in fielders.

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And as a result, it was quite easy for home side as it romped home a deserving winner with two full sessions remaining. The early exit of Robin Uthappa, whose downfall was designed by the combine of Sijomon Joseph and Fabid Ahmed was a grave setback for the visitors who thereafter succumbed meekly with the addition of just 65 runs, after resuming at the overnight total of 30 for one.

Wickets fell in regular intervals, even as Sheldon Jackson for a period of time tried his best to hold the Saurashtra innings together.

However, with the rival spinners in full cry, he too was unable to do anything much before Kerala completed the formalities in style. Saxena finished with a haul of four wickets while Joseph and Akshay had three apiece.

In effect, it was a great win for the home side particularly after having a poor first day when it was shot out for a modest 225 in its first innings. The transformation, afterwards, was there for all to see as the home side with an improved display through the remaining three days was able to piece together a memorable victory, forcing an ecstatic Dave Whatmore to comment, “It is all because of the boys, who fought back brilliantly. Due credit to Sanju Samson who was simply outstanding in the second innings and helped build a formidable score.

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The spinners were yet again on target, utilising the conditions very well and coming up with an attacking show in both the innings. It only shows how the side, which is a mix of young blood and experience, can perform under demanding circumstances.”

Shitanshu Kotak, the Saurashtra coach, also was all praise for Sanju Samson and the home team bowlers. “Our bowlers were unable to match

their counterparts in any way. Instead of attacking, they simply kept the flighting the ball on the hope that the Kerala batsmen would commit hara-kiri. Sanju and the rest of the Kerala batsmen took advantage of this and forced us out of the game,” he said.