SPIC-TNCA XI retains title

SPIC-TNCA XI, the winner of the Sahara-Buchi Babu tournament. — Pic. V. GANESAN-

TAMIL NADU made a positive start to its preparation for the coming domestic season by winning the coveted Sahara-Buchi Babu all-India invitation cricket tournament for the second year on the trot.

The host's main team — SPIC-TNCA XI — defeated Indian Airlines in what was a repeat of the previous edition's final in the annual fixture organised by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association in Chennai.

In all, 12 teams took part. They were TNCA President's XI, TN Districts XI, Associated Banks, Hyderabad XI, Air-India, IOC, Indian Railways, Rajasthan, CAB and ONGC apart from the finalists. The matches were played over three days with the first innings restricted to 90 overs and the second innings to 45 each.

Led by S. Suresh, who skippered the State side to the Ranji limited-overs title and the Ranji Trophy final last season, SPIC-TNCA XI, which got a bye in the first round, defeated Hyderabad in the quarterfinals and ONGC in the semifinals.

Indian Airlines, on the other hand, put it across TNCA President's XI in the quarterfinals and Indian Railways in the semifinals after having got a first round bye.

TNCA XI came from behind in its opening match. After restricting Hyderabad to 110, the home side was bundled out for 74, with left-arm seamer Md. Ghouse Baba taking six for 28. TNCA XI, however, restricted the opposition to 176 for nine in the second innings and helped by S. Ramesh's 72 and S. Badrinath's 99 reached the target of 213.

Mediumpacer M. R. Shrinivas' five-wicket haul in the first innings and his new ball partner C. Ganapathy's six-wicket haul in the second saw TNCA XI beat ONGC by an innings under two days. Earlier, opener Noorul Riaz made an undefeated 138 for the host.

Indian Airlines, helped by Shafiq Khan's unbeaten century, beat TNCA President's XI on first innings while in the following encounter Indian Railways gave in without a fight.

In the final, openers Ramesh and Suresh provided the host with a 104-run start, but the strapping Airlines speedster Munaf Patel kept the first innings total down to 317 with a seven-wicket haul. Airlines could muster just 224 in reply, despite Rajat Bhatia's 76, and the side couldn't recover from the 93-run deficit, considering that the second innings was restricted to 45 overs.

The winner took home Rs. 1 lakh, the runner-up Rs. 50,000 and the losing semifinalists Rs. 15,000 each. Former Test leg-spinner V.V. Kumar gave away the prizes.

The scores (final): SPIC-TNCA XI 317 in 89.4 overs (S. Suresh 52, S. Ramesh 66, Noorul Riaz 40, S. Sharath 44, S. Vidyut 29, Munaf Patel seven for 78) & 201 in 44.1 overs (Noorul Riaz 70, K. Dinesh Kaartick 32, Iresh Saxena three for 58, Ishan Ganda three for 34) bt Indian Airlines 224 in 58.4 overs (M. S. Bisla 48, Shafiq Khan 26, Sandeep Sawal 35, Rajat Bhatia 76, S. Suresh three for 49) & 168 in 39.5 overs (Sandeep Sawal 38 not out, Rajat Bhatia 34, S. Suresh three for 13). — Sanjay Rajan