When Kerala beat Goa by six wickets on the final day of the K.S. Subbiah Pillai Trophy one-day cricket tournament at Porvorim on Wednesday, it just wasn’t another victory against the host.

It was Kerala’s most important win in the history of the event, as it helped the team clinch a place in the Vijay Hazare all-India tournament for the first time ever.

Kerala will now join the other top one-day teams of the country for the Vijay Hazare tournament, beginning at Visakhapatnam on February 26. Karnataka, which finished on top of the round-robin tourney in Goa, is the other team to make it from South Zone.

And Karnataka was the only team Kerala lost to in the regional tournament, having won against Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Hyderabad and Goa.

To edge out formidable teams such as Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad was no small feat.

The young Kerala team — the oldest player in the side turned 30 just a few days ago — has indeed reasons to feel proud about. It truly is a remarkable achievement.

“It felt great to qualify for the all-India tournament and then to find out that we actually made history felt even greater,” Kerala’s coach Sujith Somasunder told The Hindu over telephone from Goa on Thursday. “The main reason why we did so well was that we chased well. The only chase we didn’t complete was against Karnataka, which scored 322 for five; even in that match we made 270 though.”

In the successful chases, Kerala scored 193 for four against Hyderabad, 260 for four against Andhra, 258 for five against Tamil Nadu and 223 for four against Goa. And except the Tamil Nadu match, Kerala won with plenty of overs to spare.

Batsmen on fire

Yes, the batsmen were, indeed, on fire, with Rohan Prem (233 runs at an average of 58.25), captain Sachin Baby (194 at 64.66), Robert Fernandez (186 at 46.5), wicketkeeper Sanju Viswanath (177 at 44.25) and comeback man Raiphi Vincent Gomez (145 at 145.00) making the bulk of the Kerala runs in Goa.

“Sachin did a very good job as captain too, though this was his first assignment, and was brilliant as a fielder,” said Sujith.

“As far as bowling is concerned, left-arm paceman Prasanth Parameswaran was the pick; and that is a huge plus as it lends further depth to our already strong pace bowling department.”

Was Kerala’s stunning chase against Andhra in the drawn Ranji Trophy match at Kadapa recently, when it made 192 for four in 24 overs, the starting point for the team’s one-day campaign?

“Yes, the way we batted in that second innings against Andhra — we needed 17 runs when the match was called off due to bad light with one over left — instilled tremendous self-belief in the team,” said Sujith.

“Had we won the match, we would have qualified for the knock-out stages in the four-day format too, something we wanted to do, at the start of the season.”

Sreesanth banned

Looking ahead to the one-day knock-out tournament, he said his boys were prepared to take on any side. “Yes, we will have to play our first match without S. Sreesanth, who has been banned for two matches following the incident involving Dinesh Karthik in the Tamil Nadu game,” said Sujith.

The scores from the final round of matches:

Goa 219 in 49.5 overs (Sagun Kamat 71, Manvinder Bisla 30, Robin D’Souza 50, Prasanth Parameswaran three for 34) lost to Kerala 223 for four in 45.3 overs (K.J. Rakesh 36, Rohan Prem 82 n.o., Sanju Viswanath 58) at Porvorim.

Tamil Nadu 262 for nine in 50 overs (Dinesh Karthik 119, B. Aparajith 51, C.V. Milind three for 48, A. Ashish Reddy four for 56) bt Hyderabad 236 in 48.1 overs (K. Sumanth 47, D.B. Ravi Teja 43, B.P. Sandeep 42, Sundeep Rajan 52, Palani Amarnath three for 49) at Vasco da Gama.

Andhra 228 in 48 overs (B. Sumanth 39, Amol Muzumdar 39, A.G. Pradeep 55, R. Vinay Kumar four for 38, Abhimanyu Mithun three for 42) lost to Karnataka 229 for nine in 49.4 overs (K.L. Rahul 75, Robin Uthappa 50, B. Sudhakar three for 49) at Margao.

Points table: 1. Karnataka 20 points; 2. Kerala 17; 3. Andhra 13; 4. Tamil Nadu 9; 5. Hyderabad 3; 6. Goa -2.

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