S. Sreesanth didn't disappoint. The 37-year-old seamer, returning to competitive cricket after seven years, played his part in Kerala's six-wicket win against Puducherry in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 tournament in Mumbai on Monday.
Coming off a ban following the spot-fixing scandal of the 2012 IPL, he took a wicket with the second ball of his second over, cleaning up Fabid Ahmed. For an ageing seamer who had been away from the game for so long, it was indeed a commendable performance, as he bowled his first three overs on the trot.
It was overall a fine effort from the Kerala bowlers, who restricted Puducherry to 138 for six. After Sreesanth and fellow-pacer K.M. Asif sent back the openers, and Sheldon Jackson was needlessly run-out, Jalaj Saxena took over. The Indore-born off-spinning all-rounder claimed three for 13, stifling the middle-order.
But for some lusty blows towards the end by top-scorer Ashith Rajiv (33 not out, 29b, 3x6), and his unfinished seventh-wicket stand of 51 with P. Thamaraikannan (16 not out), Puducherry would have had to settle for even less.
Earlier, a third-wicket stand of 43 between Sheldon (17) and Paras Dogra (26), had offered hopes of a recovery, but a terrible mix-up saw both the batsmen at the striker's end.
Kerala's reply was off to a flying start with Mohammed Azharuddeen (30, 18b, 4x4, 2x6), playing some attractive shots. A towering six over long-on off seamer Sagar Trivedi signalled his intentions and he added 52 for the first wicket with Robin Uthappa inside the fifth over.
Though both the openers were back in the dugout in successive overs, captain Sanju Samson (32, 26b, 3x4, 2x6) and the man whom he took over from, Sachin Baby (18), put on 43 for the third wicket to take the game away from the underdog.
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