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India 'A' win Challenger

Last updated on: September 14, 2003 22:25 IST

India 'A' won the Challenger Series, crushing India 'B' by 99 runs in a one-sided final, which was also the benefit match for former India stumper Sadanand Vishwanath.

Playing under lights has been a huge factor throughout the tournament and today was no different. The cool breeze blowing across the field in the evening makes the second innings a completely different ball-game.

Batting first, India 'A' smashed their way to a massive 314 for 6, with huge contributions from Sachin Tendulkar, Sridharan Sriram and Rohan Gavaskar.

After a useful 88 from Tendulkar, which set the foundation for a big total, the India 'A' innings seemed in danger of losing direction before a 113-run partnership between Sriram and Gavaskar saw the team race away.

Gambhir impressed yet again with his array of strokes around the wicket but failed to convert his innings into a substantial fifty, holing out to the only man on the leg side, Sarandeep Singh, off the bowling of Sairaj Bahutule for 35.

Wasim Jaffer yet again flattered to deceive, and after two boundaries played a nothing shot, tapping the ball to mid-off for the easiest of catches.

Jaffer clearly isn't lacking in the talent department, but his mind is not all there.

Mohammad Kaif, desperate for a good outing with the bat, ran his singles brilliantly but failed to pace his innings. He was trapped by Bahutule for 38.

Tendulkar, at the other end, was batting unlike his usual self, easing into competitive cricket. He reached his fifty off 65 balls in the 23rd over, with seven boundaries.

Once he crossed his fifty, he went ballistic and attacked the spinners -- Sarandeep Singh, Bahutule and Dinesh Mongia. But he chanced his arm once too often and was caught in the deep by J P Yadav off Sarandeep for 88.

Like in the opening game of the tournament, Sriram and Gavaskar got together and set the pace for the India 'A' team with some brilliant strokeplay. Sriram was unorthodox, employing the reverse sweep to good effect, while Gavaskar ensured the strike kept rotating, never failing to punish the loose deliveries.

India 'B' skipper Rahul Dravid, who had managed to keep things tight until then, lost the plot as his bowlers were slammed to all parts of the ground.

Sriram reached his fifty off 40 balls and Gavaskar scored a quickfire 49, which included a six and three boundaries.But Sriram's innings stole the thunder from Tendulkar at the packed Chinnaswamy stadium. His chanceless knock was laced with eight boundaries.

Chasing 314 is never easy and when you lose a few early wickets, it just gets that much tougher. Added to that, India 'B' lost Dinesh Mongia, who scored a brilliant century in the previous game, to a hand injury he suffered while fielding.

S S Das, who was back in the side, started off very well in the company of Jai Prakash Yadav, stroking three fours in his 17-ball knock of 18 runs. But a good piece of fielding by Irfan Khan, off his own bowling, coupled with a mix-up among the two openers, saw Das head back to the pavilion.

India 'B' shuffled their batting around a lot and it was Vijay Bharadawaj who walked in at number three. The Karnataka batsman did not last two long though. A fired up Pathan unleashed a delivery which had Bharadwaj beaten for sheer pace. At the ten overs mark, India 'B' were struggling at 47 for the loss of two wickets.

Yadav was joined by Rahul Dravid at the crease and the skipper looked completely at ease. From ball one, his timing was perfect and so was his running between the wickets. One aspect of Dravid's game that seems to have improved a lot in the off-season has been his ability to place the ball perfectly and run a quick single.

Yadav, however, did not last much longer. His stay at the wicket was a struggle all along. Assigned the pinch-hitters role, he failed. He scored 23 off 39 deliveries. The fall of the third wicket heralded the arrival of the in-form Yuvraj Singh. The tempo of the innings changed almost immediately.

The runs began to flow, the gaps were pierced with ease and at the 15-over mark, India 'B' had reached 92. The more you see of Yuvraj, the more you wonder why is he not in the Test squad.

He finally seems to have attained the maturity you need to have as a Test batsman. But their 65-run partnership came to an abrupt end when Sachin Tendulkar clean bowled Dravid (27 off 34 balls).Yuvraj followed soon thereafter, caught on the cover boundary by Pathan off Ramesh Powar.

That was the start of the end for India 'B'. After performing very well throughout the tournament, they succumbed in the final. The lights, the huge total and the pressure of playing in the final all combining to bring about the defeat.

Sairaj Bahutule tried to fight back, but his was a lone hand. A fighting half-century for the Mumbai all-rounder got India 'B' as close to the target as possible but it was not enough. India 'A' ran out easy winners in the end, but the result of the match was decided when they won the toss and decided to bat first.

Sachin Tendulkar was named man of the match for his majestic 88, which paved the way for India A's match-winning  total. However, the maestro, in a sporting gesture, refused the prize, declaring it should go to Sriram.

Scoreboard

India 'A':
G Gambhir c Sarandeep Singh b Mongia 35
S Tendulkar c Yadav b Sarandeep Singh 88
W Jaffer c Bhandari b Yadav 11
M Kaif lbw b Bahutule 38
S Sriram b Bhandari 70
R Gavaskar c Bahutule b Bhandari 49
R Powar not out 1

Extras: (lb: 8, nb: 2, w:12) 22

Total: (for 6 wickets in 50 overs) 314

Fall of wickets: 1-71, 2-95, 3-178, 4-199, 5-312, 6-314.

Bowling: A Agarkar 10-0-64-0, A Bhandari 8-1-48-2, D Mongia 9-0-50-1, JP Yadav 7-1-33-1, S Bahutule 8-0-50-1, Sarandeep Singh 6-0-46-1, Vijay Bharadwaj 2-0-16-0.

India 'B':
SS Das run out (Pathan) 18
Jai P Yadav c Tendulkar b Salvi 23
Vijay Bharadwaj b Pathan 2
R Dravid b Tendulkar 27
Yuvraj Singh c Pathan b Powar 47
T Naidu run out (Gavaskar) 1
A Agarkar lbw b Kumble 1
S Bahutule not out 54
Sarandeep Singh b Powar 11
A Bhandari c Gavaskar b Powar 8
D Mongia did not bat

Extras: (lb: 9, nb: 2, w:12) 23

Total: (for 9 wickets, 41.1 overs) 215

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-42, 3-58, 4-123, 5-125, 6-130, 7-147, 8-198, 9-215.

Bowling: A Salvi 9-0-42-1, IK Pathan 7-1-47-1, S Sriram 4-0-26-0, A Kumble 8-1-41-1, S Tendulkar 6-0-22-1, R Powar 7.1-0-29-3.

Faisal Shariff