Railways stays on main line

The victorious Railways team with the trophy.-K. RAMESH BABU

First-time finalist Delhi fought gamely, but champion Railways was unstoppable. Over to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Delhi was playing in the final of the all-India inter-State women’s cricket championship (one-day) for the first time when it took on Railways at the Gymkhana Ground (Hyderabad). The star-studded Mithali Raj-led Railways was just too good at the finish to emerge a deserving, three-wicket winner.

Curator Y. L. Chandrasekhar had prepared a truly sporting pitch which had plenty of bounce and clearly tested the stroke-selection of the batters.

Delhi made a mess of batting first by scoring only 155 (for eight) with former India captain Anjum Chopra, who was the most consistent player in the championship, coming up with yet another impressive knock (51, 92 balls, 5x4). Anjum played some classy strokes on either side of the wicket. It was sad that the next best score was only 20. It was again the efficacy of the Railways bowling, which despite not being really threatening, was good enough to get the crucial breakthroughs.

It was not a total which was expected to test the formidable Railways. But the Delhi bowlers came up with a fighting display. Clearly coming up with a far more professional approach than the team’s batters, the Delhi attack, with captain and slow bowler Reema Malhotra — who picked up two crucial wickets — leading from the front, put Railways on the defensive.

The focus was on Mithali Raj when Railways began the chase. But, once she was out for nine, snapped up by wicketkeeper Kiran Sharma off medium-pacer Rani Tonk to leave Railways at 25 for two, there was a lot of hope in the Delhi camp. But the flamboyant Babita Mandalik (38, 35 balls, 6x4) and Hemalata Kala (28, 56 balls, 1x4) dashed Delhi’s dreams. This despite losing wickets at regular intervals, with the Railways at one stage struggling at 116 for five.

Rumeli Dhar (28, 56 balls, 1x4) and Priyanka Roy (20 not out, 29 balls, 1x4) gave the finishing touches to the Railways victory.

“It was the best chance for us to beat Railways. But we messed up with the batting collapse. Anjum was exceptional as she was right through this event here,” said Delhi captain Reema Malhotra. “But we are pleased with the way the bowlers fought so well. There are plenty of positives to take from this event and we hope to keep improving,” she remarked.

For her part, Mithali confessed that there was a scare of sorts when her team lost five wickets. “But, honestly, the result was never in doubt. We have gone through such situations a number of times before and my team knows how to handle them,” said Mithali, for whom this is the fifth straight National title as captain.

The scores: Final: