Vijay Hazare: Ashwin leads Andhra to six-wicket win

Ashwin’s disdainful front-foot pulls for a four and a six off the very first over provided a sprightly start to the innings.

Ashwin Hebbar plays a shot en route to his match-winning knock.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

With a well-paced, unbeaten knock of 92 (130b, 6X4, 2X6), Ashwin Hebbar starred in Andhra’s six-wicket victory over Odisha in a Vijay Hazare Group ‘B’ contest at the Air Force Complex in Palam on Thursday.

The opener held firm during an uncertain start to his team’s chase of 185 before finding an able ally in No. 6 D. B. Ravi Teja (53*, 83b, 7X4); the duo put on 101 runs for the fifth wicket, strolling through to the target in the 48th over.

Ashwin’s disdainful front-foot pulls for a four and a six off the very first over provided a sprightly start to the innings.

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However, after a top-order collapse – Andhra was reduced to 33 for 3 in the seventh over – he was forced to curb his attacking instincts and play an innings of graft.

Ashwin and No. 5 B. Sumanth (24, 50b, 3X4) chose to be vigilant against the debutant left-arm spinner Pappu Roy, whose tail was up after dismissing Hanuma Vihari and Ricky Bhui off consecutive deliveries.

Having survived a decisive period, Sumanth fell in the 21st over, before Ravi Teja came in and helped finish the job.

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Ashwin & Co. respectfully handled the spinners, milking them for singles whenever the opportunity arose, and towards the end, when the fast bowlers were re-introduced, boundaries were struck again; the wicketless period seemed to have deflated Odisha during the business end as there were misfields and loose deliveries.

It was an expertly managed chase.

“When the early wickets fell, the whole responsibility was on [my shoulders]. I knew someone had to stay till the end,” Ashwin said after the win. “The wicket was turning square. My strategy was to rotate the strike and keep taking singles,” he added.

Andhra had been keen on avoiding a collapse akin to Kerala’s on Wednesday – a spectacle that had handed Andhra an improbable win.

Revealed Ashwin, “When we were closing in on the target, we (Ashwin and Ravi Teja) said to each other, ‘we must not allow that to happen.’”

Earlier, middle-order batsmen Sujit Lenka (55, 91b, 3X4, 1X6) and Abhishek Raut (41, 65b, 2X4, 1X6) helped Odisha obtain a fighting total.

Andhra’s team of spinners, led by leg-spinner Karn Sharma, ensured wickets fell consistently. Having lost half its side for 88 in the 25th over, Lenka and Raut added 73 but just when they would have liked to shift gears, in the 47th over, a collapse ensued and Odisha stumbled to 184 for nine.

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In the other Group ‘B’ encounter at the Air Force Complex, Chhattisgarh defeated Madhya Pradesh by 122 runs.

Captain Harpreet Singh (91, 110b, 9X4, 2X6) played a key role in what was an all-round performance from his side.

Harpreet’s effort with the bat was supported by useful contributions by the middle-order batsmen as Chhattisgarh posted 268 for 7 in its 50 overs.

In response, Madhya Pradesh was bowled out for 146. With a half-century (59, 70b, 7X4), Anshul Tripathi was the only batsman to provide some resistance.

Seamers Pankaj Rao and Shahnawaz Hussain, and leg-spinner Jatin Saxena, took three wickets apiece.

Brief Scores:

At Palam-I: Andhra 186 for 4 in 47.1 overs (Ashwin Hebbar 92*, D. B. Ravi Teja 53*; Pappu Roy 2 for 16) beat Odisha 184 for 9 in 50 overs (Sujit Lenka 55, Abhishek Raut 41; Karn Sharma 3 for 29) by six wickets.

At Palam-II: Chhattisgarh 268 for 7 in 50 overs (Harpreet Singh 91, Manoj Singh 41; Ishwar Pandey 4 for 45) beat Madhya Pradesh 146 in 38.2 overs (Anshul Tripathi 59; Pankaj Rao 3 for 14, Jatin Saxena 3 for 29, Shahnawaz Hussain 3 for 39) by 122 runs.