| The Rest of India team with the Irani Trophy in Chennai on Sunday. (Reuters)
Chennai: Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman guided Rest of India to a three-wicket win over Mumbai on the penultimate day of the Irani Trophy tie on Sunday.
Chasing a victory target of 340, Dravid (121) and Laxman (99) secured their team’s win with a 168-run fourth wicket stand. Both fell with victory well in sight and this was followed by a minor collapse as 291 for three became 312 for seven. Captain Sourav Ganguly then took the team home in the company of Anil Kumble.
This was Rest of India’s 16th triumph in 44 Irani Trophy matches. Dravid and Laxman were pretty much the architects of victory and played with complete authority in an exhibition of classy batting.
Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai, who fancied their chances after securing a 95-run first innings lead, were expecting off-spinner Ramesh Powar to deliver the goods again following his six-wicket haul in the first innings.
Powar bowled from both ends and Tendulkar kept rotating his bowlers, but Dravid and Laxman frustrated Mumbai with their masterly blend of caution and aggression. Dravid played a composed innings, while Laxman played some superb strokes.
Rest started on 55 for two and nightwatchman L. Balaji helped Dravid put on 68 for the third wicket that set the tone for the chase. Balaji contributed 26 and he was the only batsman dismissed in the first session.
Laxman, unbeaten on six at lunch, took his score to 63 at tea and cut loose in the final session. But just as everyone was expecting the second century of the innings, Laxman edged Sairaj Bahutule to Vinayak Mane at silly point. He hit 14 fours and a six off 125 balls.
Laxman was the third player to be dismissed on 99 in the Irani Trophy after Syed Kirmani (Karnataka, 1974-75) and Yashpal Sharma (Rest of India, 1978-79).
A tired looking Dravid fell soon after that, edging Bahutule to wicketkeeper Vinayak Samant. His flawless innings contained 12 fours and four sixers. Dravid was instrumental in upsetting Powar’s rhythm and all four of his sixes came against the off-spinner.
Rest then lost two quick wickets as Yuvraj miscued an attempted lofted shot towards long-off and ballooned the ball to point where Ajit Agarkar took a well judged catch. Parthiv was almost immediately sent back by Bahutule without scoring.
A tense finish was very much on the cards at this stage but the Mumbai bowlers did their cause no good by consistently offering loose deliveries. Agarkar was guilty of testing Sourav with successive short-pitched balls, both of which were pulled to the fence. Avishkar Salvi offered easy runs throughout the day.
Tendulkar said after the match that the upcoming New Zealand series was not a “revenge series”. “It is not a revenge series. We should forget the past and look forward to the future. It is important to play competitively and well against New Zealand.” (PTI)