Ravi Teja helps Andhra win thriller

Middle-order batsman D. B. Ravi Teja’s smart and responsible innings coupled with some crucial boundaries hit by lower-order batsmen took Andhra past the line against UP in the final over.

Uttar Pradesh's Akshdeep Nath in action as plays a shot against Andhra at a Vijay Hazare Trophy match at Airforce Complex Ground in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

In a run-fest at the Air Force Complex, Andhra pulled off a thrilling one-wicket victory over Uttar Pradesh to keep itself well in the hunt for the playoff spot. Akshdeep Nath’s blitzkrieg (119, 75b, 9X4, 5X6) threatened to provide the decisive difference between the two teams as despite a collective batting effort, Andhra lost wickets consistently. Eventually, middle-order batsman D. B. Ravi Teja’s smart, responsible innings (79, 83b, 5X4, 1X6) and crucial boundaries hit by lower-order batsmen took the team past the line in the final over.

The win brought Andhra to the fifth spot (22 points) among the top teams of Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’. The top five, at the end of eight rounds, will move into the playoffs.

An enterprising knock by Ashwin Hebbar (64, 47b, 9X4, 3X6) provided a bright start to the chase for the side. But some careless dismissals – two run outs, two costly attempts at belligerent strokes – dented its chances. Teja saw wickets fall around him but kept the innings intact by searching for gaps in the field and enterprising running between the wickets. As he revealed after the contest, “the boundary towards one end of the ground was big, and I was looking to place the balls there to collect runs. My intention was to stay at the wicket till the end.”

As it happened

With six overs to go, lower-order batsman Karn Sharma (43, 24b, 4X4, 2X6) added the much-needed big hits and threatened to take the contest deep. The 45th over was especially expensive as he tickled fast bowler Ankit Rajpoot for three fours that travelled behind the wicket-keeper. He also hit two sixes, but before long, was run-out.

That was the eighth wicket to fall, but Andhra kept going. K. V. Sasikanth, who had endured a forgettable spell with the ball earlier, hit two sixes amid huge cheers from his other team-members in the dugout. Seven were needed off five deliveries when Ravi Teja delivered his first six of his innings, and then calmly took a single to leg for the victory.

READ: One-wicket win keeps Hyderabad's hopes alive

His innings was crucial after Nath, with three wickets, had pegged Andhra back in the middle overs. Bowling seam-up deliveries, he did not give the batsmen pace to work with.

Two of his wickets were those of set top-order batsmen. After a scratchy start to his innings, K. S. Bharat looked set when he got out; it was an innocuous delivery collected by the wicket-keeper who found the batsman out of his crease. A potentially dangerous innings had been cut short.

Similarly, the threat posed by middle-order batsman B. Sumanth was also nipped in the bud, Nath tumbling to his left to dismiss him caught and bowled.

“I was looking to take the pace off the ball, and bowl accurately. It paid off,” he revealed after the contest.

The track seemed good to bat on, and opener Samarth Singh duly responded with a century (115, 130b, 10X4, 2X6) but Nath provided the x-factor with a kaleidoscopic and well-paced innings. At first, boundaries mainly arrived by the occasional paddle-sweep or the pull shot. In the final 10 overs, he opened up.

He executed a number of pulls between the mid-wicket and square leg region, and hit sixes off length balls by the fast bowlers. He scored much faster than his batting partner for much of his innings – Samarth, whose innings, albeit more measured, provided the ideal foil.

Nath celebrated his century in the penultimate over by tonking the fast bowlers for two sixes and a four in the remaining time. Samarth joined in too, hitting back-to-back sixes as UP reached an impressive total but not impregnable on what Nath terms as “the best wicket to bat on [here so far].”

In contrast, the other Group ‘B’ contest between Chhattisgarh and Saurashtra at the Air Force Complex here was a one-sided one. Left-arm spinner Sumit Ruikar took six wickets as Saurashtra was bowled out for 110. Rishabh Tiwari (56*, 90b, 6X4, 1X6) and Manoj Singh (36*, 56b, 3X4) took Chhattisgarh past the line in the 25 over, for a nine-wicket win.

BRIEF SCORES

At Palam-I: Saurashtra 110 in 34.4 overs (Arpit Vasavada 34; Sumit Ruikar 6 for 26) lost to Chhattisgarh 111 for 1 in 24.2 overs (Rishabh Tiwari 56 n.o., Manoj Singh 36 n.o.)

At Palam-II: Uttar Pradesh 330 for 4 in 50 overs (Aksh Deep Nath 119 n.o., Samarth Singh 115 n.o., Suresh Raina 52) lost to Andhra 331 for 9 in 49.3 overs (D. Ravi Teja 79 n.o., Ashwin Hebbar 64, B. Sumanth 43, Karn Sharma 43; Aksh Deep Nath 3 for 44).