SPORT

Harvinder's cameo gives Railways the lead

NEW DELHI OCT. 31. Railways' tail, spearheaded by Harvinder Singh, wagged yet again to give its side the crucial first innings lead against Rest of India, on the third day of the Irani Cup at the Karnail Singh Stadium here on Thursday.

Despite the pitch becoming worn-out and dusty in the final session, chances of an outright result looked bleak though two more days still remain.

The Rest openers, Akash Chopra of Delhi and Mumbai's Wasim Jaffer, batted with resolve to wipe out Railways' 50-run lead. And the defending champion ended the day at 84 without loss after safely playing out 29 overs, with Chopra on 41 and Jaffer 38.

Rest's hopes of clinching the first innings lead brightened when Kerala speedster Tinu Yohannan snared two wickets off his first two balls of the day.

Resuming at 135 for three with J.P. Yadav at the helm, Railways saw its fortunes change in the very second over of the day. Yohannan, bowling from the far end, first trapped Jacob Martin (26) with his first delivery of the day. Middle-order batsman Raja Ali, who has been out of form, then edged to wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya to put Yohannan on the verge of a hat-trick.

Railways, reduced to 136 for five, needed some gutsy batting to lift its spirit. In walked Shreyas Khanolkar, who as a makeshift opener scored a rollicking hundred in the tour match against the West Indies last week at Pune, to give able support to Yadav.

Khanolkar hit five boundaries in his 66-ball 36 as Railways crossed the 200-run barrier. But soon he paid price for being over-ambitious as Yohannan completed a fine running catch at mid-on off Sarandeep Singh.

To make matters worse for Railways, it lost two more wickets — Murali Kartik and Yadav — but not before the latter had completed his 10th first class century.

Yadav, who resumed at 71, was forced to restrain himself as wickets kept falling at the other end. He completed his 100, with the help of 11 fours and two sixes, in 289 minutes and 220 balls. Yadav reached his 100 in style, driving Timil Patel to the boundary through covers off Timil Patel as Patel conceded 14 runs in that over.

Rest skipper Yuveraj Singh, who put close-in fielders and had spinners operating from both ends, soon had the prize wicket of Yadav. In trying to defend an outgoing delivery from off-spinner S. Lahiri, Yadav ended up edging to Abhijit Kale at first slip.

When Yadav departed as the eighth wicket at 209, his Railways teammates gave him a standing ovation and then sat down to watch Harvinder Singh take centrestage.

Harvinder played a cameo, punishing the bad balls with disdain over the ropes, as he took full advantage of the life offered to him at 22, when Lahiri dropped a sitter at mid-off. Delhi spinner Sarandeep Singh couldn't believe his luck as that wicket would have turned the match around.

Railways took lunch at 243 for eight with Harvinder on 25 and Zakir seven. And in the post-lunch session, Harvinder showed no signs of relaxing as he went after Lahiri, hitting him for three sixes, and then slammed a six each off Sarandeep and Yuveraj Singh.

Harvinder then inched closer to 50 and reached it with a single off Sarandeep; he also completed the formalities of crossing the Rest total of 266. As the pressure was relieved, Harvinder and Zakir played freely before Sarandeep finally castled Harvinder.

Railways' first innings finished 20 minutes before tea with the host enjoying a 50-run cushion.

The third day's play was extended by half an hour as the umpires and the players struggled with a `bad' batch of balls sent by the Cricket Board. Balls were changed four times as they went out of shape after being used for less than five overs.

The scores:

Rest of India — 1st innings: 266

Railways — 1st innings: J. P. Yadav c Kale b Lahiri 104, Amit Pagnis lbw b Pathan 6, Abhay Sharma c Jaffer b Sarandeep 20, Yere Goud lbw b Pathan 1, Jacob Martin lbw b 26, Raja Ali c Dahiya b Yohannan 0, Shreyas Khanolkar c Yohannan b Sarandeep 36, Murali Kartik c and b Lahiri 1, Zakir Hussein (not out) 35, Harvinder Singh b Sarandeep 59, Kulamani Parida lbw b Lahiri 5, Extras (b-7, lb-5, nb-11) 23; Total (in 109.2 overs) 316.

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-33, 3-39, 4-136, 5-136, 6-204, 7-207, 8-209, 9-295.

Rest of India bowling: Yohannan 19-4-33-2, Pathan 26-2-61-2, Sarandeep 35-7-79-3, T. Patel 11-1-59-0, S. Lahiri 10.2-1-55-3, Yuveraj 7-3-16-0, Rohan Gavaskar 1-0-1-0.

Rest of India — 2nd innings: Akash Chopra (batting) 41, Wasim Jaffer (batting) 38, Extras (b-4, w-1) 5; Total (for no loss in 29 overs) 84.

Railways bowling: Harvinder 7-0-28-0, Zakir 4-2-7-0, Yadav 5-1-12-0, Murali Kartik 8-3-12-0, Parida 5-0-21-0.

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