Vijay Hazare Trophy: Kerala edges past Delhi by 2 wickets

Following a one-and-a-half hours delayed start due to rains on Monday and early in the morning, Kerala won the toss and relied on Nidheesh M.D.'s four-wicket haul to restrict Delhi to 177 in a 42-over-a-side contest.

(from left) Sachin Baby and Nidheesh M.D.   -  Y.B. Sarangi

Kerala made heavy weather of a modest run chase before managing to upset Delhi by two wickets in a Vijay Hazare Trophy Group B match at the HPCA Stadium here on Tuesday.

Following a one-and-a-half hours delayed start due to rains on Monday and early in the morning, Kerala won the toss and relied on Nidheesh M.D.'s four-wicket haul to restrict Delhi to 177 in a 42-over-a-side contest.

Kerala rode on captain Sachin Baby's valuable half-century and overcame some stifling moments to taste its second victory. Delhi, which might not have suffered for resting Ishant Sharma, probably paid the price for tinkering with an established batting line-up by fielding rookie Kshitiz Sharma in the place of an accomplished Nitish Rana.

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In seamer-friendly conditions, Kerala bowlers were rewarded for showing discipline. A good line and some deviation helped Nidheesh have Hiten Dalal caught behind in the fifth over.

Debutant Fanoos F. bowled in good rhythm to extract movement off the surface and in the air. His ability to generate extra bounce proved beneficial as he had Kshitiz and Unmukt Chand caught by keeper Sanju Samson in consecutive overs.

Abhishek Mohan bowled Rishabh Pant with a fuller one as Delhi struggled at 56 for five. The gritty Dhruv Shorey, who batted sensibly for a 90-ball 71, containing five fours and a majestic six over the sight-screen off Rohan Prem, and Milind Kumar (25 off 40) applied themselves to add 50 runs before the latter was run out.

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Delhi lost two more wickets quickly before Pradeep Sangwan (25 off 37) and Shorey gathered 56 runs for the eighth wicket. Nidheesh returned to capture three wickets, including the one of Shorey, caught at long-off, in the space of four deliveries to finish off the Delhi innings prematurely.

Vishnu Vinod (21 off 32, 3x4, 1x6) and Jalaj Saxena (26 off 46, 3x4, 1x6) provided a solid start, worth 54 runs, before the former fell to an ambitious shot off Pawan Negi. Kulwant Khejroliya bowled beautifully to scalp Rohan and Jalaj in the 15th over and apply more pressure.

A fine 39-run stand between Sanju (29 off 21, 5x4) and Sachin (52 off 57, 7x4) tilted the contest in favour of Kerala before Navdeep Saini saw Sanju edging one to Pant.

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A nagging Saini had K.B. Arun Karthick, but Sachin stood firm to get 43 runs with Mohammed Azharuddeen (21 not out off 32). Sachin hit Manan Sharma for three fours in an over to reach his fifty and take Kerala to the threshold of victory.

Saini bowled Sachin and dismissed Vinod Kumar in consecutive deliveries and Khejroliya took Fanoos' wicket to add more thrill, but could not prevent Kerala's victory.

Brief scores

At Dharamshala (42 overs per side): Delhi 177 in 39.3 overs (Dhruv Shorey 71, Nidheesh M.D. 4 for 41) lost to Kerala 178 for 8 in 35.4 overs (Sachin Baby 52, Navdeep Saini 4 for 39, Kulwant Khejroliya 3 for 27) by 2 wickets.

At Amtar (33 overs per side): Bengal 249 in 33 overs (Vivek Singh 84, Abhishek Raman 76, Abhijit Chakraborty 7 for 40) beat Tripura 140 in 29 overs (J.R. Banik 51, Alok Pratap Singh 4 for 36, Pradipta Pramanik 3 for 25) by 109 runs.

At Bilaspur: Match abandoned due to overnight rain (Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh share points).