The script that emerged by the end of the third day stayed on course with little of twists and turns before Kerala cantered home to an emphatic nine-wicket victory over Andhra in the Ranji Trophy Elite Pool B match at the St. Xavier’s stadium, Thumba, on Thursday.
Having almost run through the rival second innings, thanks to the superb effort of Jalaj Saxena, the home team required only 5.3 more overs to skittle Andhra out for 115 and set a target of 42 runs for an outright win. The two wickets to fall this morning after Andhra resumed at 102 for eight were shared by K. C. Akshay — who got rid of Ricky Bhui (13) caught by Basil Thampi at midwicket — and Jalaj — who had P. Vijay Kumar stumped by Sanju Samson for nought.
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Jalaj, with his haul of 8 for 45, also bettered his previous best of 8 for 58 (for Madhya Pradesh against Railways) in an innings. Overall, the 31-year-old who also hit a fine century in the Kerala first innings had match figures of 9 for 99.
The attention, as Kerala started its chase, shifted to the bonus point that the host could have gained. But K.B. Arun Karthick (16) was bowled by G. Manish before Jalaj, in the company of Rohan Prem, quite fittingly closed out the encounter in the last ball of the 13th over with a brilliantly-timed cover boundary.
Kerala coach Dav Whatmore was all praise for his side. “We just had one blip in the morning of the third
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day, when the team lost five wickets for almost nothing. Otherwise, we were the better side on all other sessions of play,” he said.
Skipper Sachin Baby described Jalaj’s effort as, “Class. I am also happy that the fielders too came up with their best to help Jalaj all through his wonderful spell.”
The Kerala Cricket Association has announced a special cash award of Rs. 1 lakh to Jalaj, hailing his effort as extraordinary.
Gaining six points after the win, Kerala now has seven points from two matches. It will next play Bengal in Kolkata from November 20.
Vinod Kumar will join the original 15-member squad for this encounter.
Andhra has three points from two matches.
Brief scores: Andhra 254 & 115 (R Bhui 32; Jalaj 8/45) lost to Kerala 328 & 43/1 (J Saxena 19 not out) by nine wickets