Seven runs, two wickets, and one wicket – these were some of the winning margins for Andhra this season. Notwithstanding its commanding performances in some of its other contests, the team has tangibly gained by a penchant of turning contests in its favour from any scenario.
Against Uttar Pradesh, when it was put under pressure by a whirlwind knock by Aksh Deep Nath, it found D. Ravi Teja to the rescue. Against Chhattisgarh, it was lower-order batsman Karn Sharma who played the decisive knock as the target was reached on the last ball, and in the first match of its campaign, against Kerala, the alchemy was provided by part-time spinners Ricky Bhui and Hanuma Vihari.
“We had the luck factor with us – every team needs it. The whole team contributed. No one player took us to the playoffs, although Hanuma Vihari’s excellent captaincy was a big factor,” Shoaib told Sportstar after his team’s seven-wicket win over Madhya Pradesh here.
He added, “If the batsmen failed, the bowlers stepped up, and if the bowlers failed, the batsmen stepped up. On one occasion, we even had an excellent collective fielding performance.”
Monday also marked a collective performance from Andhra, but this time, Shoaib’s bowling was a decisive factor. He mesmerised the batsmen with his variations. First, he ended the mushrooming third-wicket partnership before it could assume any ominous form, dismissing Yash Dubey for 25.
Later, he profited by inducing attacking strokes from lower-order batsmen. But besides claiming four wickets, he also ensured the economy of runs. In the 7.4 overs he bowled, he gave away only 16 runs.
How were the batsmen rattled so much?
Described Shoaib, “I mixed up my deliveries well. The wicket was slow; I had a slower ball and a faster one. I was trying to pitch the slower deliveries full, so that the batsmen didn’t have the chance to sit back and defend it. For the faster deliveries, I bowled on a length or just short.”
The difference in pace among his deliveries helps explain three dismissals off mistimed strokes. The fast one was the weapon that undid No. 8 Ankit Singh Kushwah, who sat back at his crease and was leg-before-wicket.
Captain Hanuma Vihari, also bowling off-spin, aided Shoaib’s cause by dismissing three middle-order batsmen. “Vihari has a knack of taking crucial wickets. His spell gave me confidence. As an off-spinner, I thought, if he can take wickets, so can I,” Shoaib said.
Shoaib’s first spell was key. “I had given away just five runs off four overs and had claimed a wicket as well. It gave me confidence.”
It was his first four-wicket haul in List A cricket. A nice day to register it.
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