The pivotal moment arrived after lunch. A well-set Niklesh Surendran searched for the wrong ‘un and was flummoxed by the Chinaman.
There are times when numbers do not tell the story and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav’s influence in the semifinal at the IC-Guru Nanak ground on Tuesday extended way beyond his three wickets.
The under-19 lad from Kanpur changed the complexion of the duel with control and delicious variety in tandem with left-arm orthodox spinner Saurabh Kumar who grabbed six wickets.
The spin duo — Kuldeep’s flight and two-way spin was complemented by Saurabh’s tight but flatter methods — stung to dismiss Kerala for 188. Then, Uttar Pradesh, despite a few hiccups, closed out the match by four wickets on day one to enter the final of the Kalpathi-Buchi Babu all-India tournament.
The surface offered some turn and bounce but there were runs for the batsmen who applied themselves.
Inserted, Kerala lost its way dramatically after a 109-run opening association in 24.4 overs between Abhishek Hegde (49) and Niklesh Surendran (73, 104b, 12x4, 1x6).
Lanky off-spinner Vinoop S. Manoharan, extracting bounce, scalped five but Uttar Pradesh — Prasanth Gupta top-scored with 54 (84b, 9x4, 1x6) — nailed the chase.
In the other semifinal, B. Indrajith (165, 244b, 310m, 17x4, 2x6) produced a fine effort to drive TNCA President’s XI to 365 against TNCA XI. Electing to bat, President’s XI’s run-rate had a comforting rhythm throughout the innings — never dropping below three — sans any noticeably explosive phases.
Openers K.B. Arun Karthick (28) and Abhinav Mukund (28) departed in quick succession after a 54-run stand. Indrajith, batting at number four, found a spirited partner in skipper S. Badrinath (45, 5x4, 1x6) and together they raised 122 runs.
At about an hour after lunch, Badrinath’s opposite number, R. Ashwin, induced an edge that was smartly held by R. Prasanna at first slip. Indrajith, however, remained unflustered and ventured into another partnership, adding 110 runs with Vijay Shankar (49, 67b, 7x4, 1x6).
Neither batsman shied away from giving the ball a good tonk, the momentum firmly in President’s XI’s grasp. The 19-year-old Indrajith, who’s had three 90-plus scores in the tournament, brought up his century with a dab to point off Ganga Sridhar Raju. His knock was spiced up by deft flicks and firm drives.
Playing three spinners, TNCA XI’s cause was helped by part-time seamer Prasanna, his in-dippers accounting for Vijay and M. Shahrukh Khan. Ashwin delivered a peach to dismiss Malolan Rangarajan. Despite the fall of wickets around him, Indrajith continued to hold fort and was the last man to get out.
The scores (semifinals):
Kerala 188 in 56.1 overs (Abhishek Hegde 49, Niklesh Surendran 73, Saurabh Kumar six for 45, Kuldeep Yadav three for 66) lost to Uttar Pradesh CA 192 for six in 46.5 overs (Tanmay Srivastava 32, Prasanth Gupta 54, Umang Sharma 32, Arish Alam 42, Vinoop S. Manoharan five for 60).
TNCA President’s XI 365 in 100 overs (S. Badrinath 45, B. Indrajith 165, Vijay Shankar 49, R. Ashwin four for 83) vs. TNCA XI seven for no loss in four overs.