Cements holds firm against Pistons

The victorious India Cements team with the chief guest (sitting, fourth from left) N. Murali, Joint Managing Director, The Hindu.-V. GANESAN The victorious India Cements team with the chief guest (sitting, fourth from left) N. Murali, Joint Managing Director, The Hindu.

A tournament steeped in Chennai's cricket history produced a stirring final. And the side that played the percentages better emerged the winner.

A tournament steeped in Chennai's cricket history produced a stirring final. And the side that played the percentages better emerged the winner.

The 2005 edition of The Hindu Trophy, a prestigious summer limited overs event, ended with a gripping last-over finish, watched by a sizable gathering. At the end of it all, the India Cements cricketers celebrated under the lights at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. They have every reason to be pleased with their performance for they were defending just 140 in 30 overs against a respectable India Pistons line-up.

After being let down by its batsmen in the afternoon, India Cements bowled with discipline on a surface lacking in bounce, and fielded with a tigerish resolve to win by eight runs. None epitomised the spirit of the winning side better than paceman D. J. Gokulakrishnan, who operated stump to stump on a pitch where the odd ball kept low, or Jesubabu Honeymen, who guarded the sweeper cover area like a man possessed.

Gokulakrishanan, adjudged the `Man of the Final', clinched the title for India Cements when he castled R. Raghu in the final over, which Pistons began requiring 13 for a victory. Raghu had smacked the first ball to the boundary, but failed to score off the next two, and then found a Gokulakrishnan delivery crashing into his stumps. The paceman ended with four for 16 off 5.4 immaculate overs. Support seamer and captain S. Suresh donned a key role as well with three for 33.

India Cements had other heroes like the stocky left-arm spinner Syed Meraj, who smashed the last ball of the innings for a straight six and then bamboozled the dangerous R. Satish (20) with a delivery that spun away from the right-hander to clip the off-bail. This was the decisive moment of the contest.

Despite the effort put in by India Cements on the field, this was a match that Pistons would have won had it paced the innings better. On the contrary, Pistons made a hash of the chase by not working the ball around for the ones and the twos on a sluggish wicket. The batsmen, rather unwisely, opted for the bigger blows and the keen India Cements fielders manning the fence gobbled up the miscued hits.

The failure to string together partnerships meant the pressure seldom eased on Pistons — the side was 64 for three in 15 overs, 77 for five in 20, and 104 for six in 25. Pistons could not extricate itself from a hole of its own making.

Earlier, after the bigger names failed, the experienced Sunil Oasis, who made a breezy 22-ball 28 (1x6, 1x4) sprinkled with some bright straight hits, and Meraj (12 not out off 11 deliveries) gathered an unbeaten 29 in 3.2 overs. These runs cost Pistons, which inserted Indian Cements, the title.

N. Murali, Joint Managing Director, The Hindu, gave away the prizes. C. R. Vijayaraghavan, secretary, TNCA, spoke on the occasion. Gokulakrishnan's The Sportstar Man of the Match prize was worth Rs. 10,000. Pistons received The S. Parthasarathy Memorial Trophy for the runner-up

The scores: Final: India Cements 140 for nine in 30 overs bt India Pistons 132 in 29.4 overs (D. J. Gokulakrishnan four for 16) — S. Dinakar