Ranji Trophy: Kerala scripts history, makes it to quarters for the first time

The long wait is finally over. And as Sanju Samson completed an easy catch off M. D. Nidheesh to dismiss Ashish K. Hooda at the stroke of lunch, the moment signalled Kerala’s maiden entry into the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy on Tuesday.

Kerala's Sachin Baby takes a selfie with his team-mates after making it to the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy on Tuesday.   -  A. Vinod

The long wait is finally over. And as Sanju Samson completed an easy catch off M. D. Nidheesh to dismiss Ashish K. Hooda at the stroke of lunch, the moment signalled Kerala’s maiden entry into the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy on Tuesday.

Naturally, the Kerala side was cock-a-hoop after creating history and that too in style – an innings and eight run victory over Haryana at the Chaudhary Bansi Lal cricket stadium here. The win fetched the side seven points (including the bonus) to finish the Group B engagements with a five-win, one-loss record and a total of 31 points to be placed second reigning champions Gujarat (34).

Kerala had qualified for the first time into the second round in 1994 when it was knocked out of the pre-quarterfinals by Uttar Pradesh on first innings lead. Its last entry to the second round (then named as the Super League) came in 1996-97 from wherein it again failed to get to the round of last eight. Since then, it has been a patient wait until now.

SCOREBOARD

Left with the task of capturing the last five Haryavni wickets to seal its berth, Kerala found unexpected resistance in the morning as the home side, resuming at the overnight total of 83 for five, kept going for quite some time through Rajat Paliwal and skipper Amit Mishra. The duo were engaged in a 58-run partnership for the sixth wicket before Jalaj Saxena finally got be the breakthrough desperately needed by his side, as he had Paliwal (34) caught by Mohammed Azharuddeen at forward short leg.

Rohit P. Sharma lasted just four deliveries to be caught by Azharudden again, this time off Basil Thampi. Mishra (40) having defied the Kerala attack for a total of 113 minutes was the next to go, as he caught by Sachin Baby off his second attempt at mid-off. M.D. Nidheesh to took this crucial wicket was to gain two more as he accounted for Harshal V. Patel and then Ashish K. Hooda in the end. Nidheesh and Saxena share three wickets each at the cost of 27 and 37 runs respectively.

READ: Ranji Trophy: Kerala makes slow progress

An overjoyed Dave Whatmore, the Kerala coach, gave full credit to his players. “Every match so far has been a quarterfinal, and I am happy that the boys coped with the tremendous pressure. Immaterial of whom we play next, we having to keep the momentum going.”

Kerala in the quarterfinals starting on November 7 is slated to play against Bengal.