Batting miracles are rare in cricket. They are rarer on surfaces such as the one at the IIT-Chemplast ground.
A target of 421 seemed a mirage and the host lost by a mile. Tamil Nadu was dismissed 24 minutes before tea for 225. Last year’s finalist is all but out of this season’s Ranji Trophy.
Fuel-driven by Man of the Match Ali Murtaza’s punishing first innings 106 and a telling 10-wicket match haul, Uttar Pradesh was a deserving 195-run winner on the final day of the crucial group ‘B’ duel here on Tuesday.
With 27 points and a match in hand, Mohammad Kaif men’s men are poised to top the group. Situations throw up heroes and the pace-dependent side found one in Murtaza on a turner.
Tamil Nadu, with 13 points, not only needs to trounce Haryana by an innings or ten wickets at home in its final league duel but must also hope for other results to go its way to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Delhi must either gain the lead or the first innings should remain incomplete against Vidarbha. Then, Odisha and Karnataka should not score outright wins in their last matches.
If the third team from the group does not cross 20 points then the net run-rate could prove decisive in deciding the last qualifier.
For such a sequence of events to happen would be like hoping for another miracle. Tamil Nadu, for all practical purposes, is out of the hunt this season.
The home side had the option of playing for a draw and a point but decided to go for the glory and six points. Uttar Pradesh, led smartly by Kaif, kept chipping away and was clinical in its end game skills.
Left-arm spinner Praveen Gupta — rather round-armish in his methods — scalped four by keeping it tight even as the Tamil Nadu batsmen went for their shots.
Indeed, Uttar Pradesh’s left arm spin made all the right moves in the game, with Murtaza once again hitting the right areas and exploiting the surface’s inconsistent bounce.
And paceman Imitiaz Ahmed got the ball to skid around from a quick-arm action to strike twice. The escape routes were cut for the home side.
For Tamil Nadu, openers Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund finally provided a bright start but the side, despite switches in its batting order, kept losing wickets at regular intervals even as it pursued quick runs.
Mukund (54), eventually, fell leg-before to a straighter one from Praveen Gupta. K.B. Arun Karthick, one of the few successes this season, stroked with spirit during his 70 (127b, 7x4, 2x6) before he was stumped off Gupta.
Malolan Rangarajan struck a few blows but the writing was on the wall for Tamil Nadu.
Keywords: Ranji Trophy cricket