Rohan Kunnummal would likely score more hundreds for Kerala, but he will remember fondly the one he made here on Sunday for the rest of his life.
Not just because he became the first Kerala batter to make hundreds in three successive innings in First Class cricket, but more because he led Kerala to a remarkable victory in the Ranji Trophy.
Riding on Rohan’s brilliant knock (106 not out, 87b, 12x4, 3x6), Kerala beat Gujarat by eight wickets at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. Set a target of 214 in 41 overs, Kerala romped home with 5.2 overs to spare.
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Kerala has thus joined Madhya Pradesh at the top of Group A (on 13 points). And they come face to face on March 3, to kick off a match that will decide who goes through to the knock-out phase.
For now though Kerala could cherish what should be one of its finest wins. That win had looked distant and even unachievable when Gujarat’s overnight sixth-wicket stand frustrated Kerala in the morning session.
Debutant Umang Kumar (70, 175b, 8x4, 1x6) and Karan Patel (81, 150b, 9x4), who had made a hundred after a top-order collapse in the first innings, were looking inseparable.
But after lunch, Karan was caught brilliantly at slip by P. Rahul off left-arm spinner Sijomon Joseph. Off-spinner Jalaj Saxena also got into the act -- he finished with four for 57 – as Gujarat was bowled out for 264, from 222 for five.
After the early loss of Rahul, skipper Sachin Baby (62, 76b, 5x4, 2x6) joined Rohan and the two put on an exhibition of how to pace a daunting chase as they added 143 off 135 balls for the second wicket. The captain got out when 41 was still required, but Salman Nizar (28 not out, 30b) ensured that Rohan’s monumental effort didn’t go in vain.
Rohan is such a delightful batter to watch with his timing and wide array of shots, but he showed maturity and excellent temperament as well. It looked as if it was only the chase that mattered to him, not his hundred.
The hundred did come, of course. Most deservedly so.
Gujarat – 1st Innings: Kerala – 1st Innings: 439
Gujarat – 2nd Innings: Saurav Chauhan lbw b Jalaj 19, Kathan Patel lbw b Thampi 20, Bhargav Merai lbw b Nidheesh 11, Manpri Juneja lbw b Thampi 6, Het Patel c Rahul b Sijomon 6, Umang Kumar c Sijomon b Jalaj 70, Karan Patel c Rahul b Sijomon 81, Chintan Gaja (not out) 24, Roosh Kalaria c Vathsal b Jalaj 0, Siddharth Desai b Jalaj 7, Arzan Nagwaswalla c Thampi b Sijomon 4; Extras (b-7, lb-8, w-1) 16; Total (in 85.5 overs): 264
Fall of wickets: 1-43, 2-45, 3-59, 4-65, 5-84, 6-222, 7-242, 8-243, 9-253
Kerala bowling: Nidheesh 16-2-66-1, Thampi 18-5-45-2, Jalaj 18-1-57-4, Edhen 7-0-33-0, Sijomon 26.5-8-48-3
Kerala – 2nd Innings:
P. Rahul lbw Gaja 7, Rohan Kunnummal (not out) 106, Sachin Baby c Kathan b Desai 62, Salman Nizar (not out) 28; Extra (b-4, lb-7) 11; Total (for two wtks. in 35.4 overs): 214
Fall of wickets: 1-27, 2-170
Gujarat bowling: Desai 16-0-91-1, Kalaria 4-1-13-0, Gaja 6-0-42-1, Nagwaswalla 7.4-1-44-0, Karan 2-0-13-0