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Rahul’s 5 takes Jharkhand to semis

MoM Rahul Shukla

Calcutta: If the wicket offers a little seam and movement, the present crop of Indian batsmen at the domestic level are just sitting ducks.

After Bengal demolished Tamil Nadu, defending a paltry 167, Jharkhand eked out a 25-run win over Services despite putting up a modest 214 on the board in Wednesday’s quarter-final tie of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, here, at the Jadavpur University Salt Lake Campus ground.

First, Kumar Deobrat came up with a fantastic 99-ball 84 to bring Jharkhand back into the game after being put in by Services. Thereafter, pacer Rahul Shukla snared five wickets as Jharkhand dismissed Services for 189 with eight balls to spare, booking a semi-final berth. They will now face Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the last-four stage on Friday.

The quicks of both sides used the conditions to perfection. Suraj Yadav and Shadab Nazar took four wickets apiece. Jharkhand would have had no chance at all, but for Deobrat’s solid knock. However, poor technique from Services batsmen made things easier for the Jharkhand bowlers.

Apart from Soumyaranjan Swain (45) and captain Yashpal Singh (39), the rest of the Services batsmen looked a level below mediocre. Even Yashpal, who was pretty well set, gave a return catch to Ashish Yadav off a delivery that by no means was a wicket-taking one.

The seventh-wicket partnership between Swain and Suraj looked to bring the equation in favour of Services. Boundaries were coming thick and fast but again, a misunderstanding between the two led to Swain’s run out — the last thing that Services needed at that juncture of the game.

Although Suraj, along with Abhishek Sakuja, offered some resistance for a short while, a Jharkhand victory was inevitable. Rahul returned to remove Sakuja and Shadab, while wicket-keeper Shivprasad Gautam’s brilliant piece of work ran Suraj out that completed the formalities for Jharkhand.

Rahul and Deobrat deserve special mention. Deobrat arrived at the crease with Jharkhand wobbling at 25 for three. Soon after, he saw captain Saurabh Tiwary being sent back by Suraj before the tall pacer cleaned up Gautam, who lasted just two balls.

At 35 for five, Jharkhand’s innings was simply going nowhere. But Deobrat held firm, and with Keshav Kumar (41) giving good support at the other end, focused on grinding the opposition attack before unleashing a few wonderful strokes that helped take some pressure off.

Keshav, too, grew in confidence at the other end and was beginning to play freely. The pair added a match-turning 111 for the sixth wicket before Shadab returned to dismiss Keshav.

With two more wickets falling in succession, Deobrat lost patience and was trapped leg-before, going for an expansive shot over mid-wicket. However, Rahul, before terrorising the Services batsmen with his bounce and seam movement, made a significant contribution with the long handle as well, hitting an unbeaten 32.

In fact, it was his and Varun Aaron’s run-a-ball 33-run partnership for the ninth wicket, containing meaty blows, which took Jharkhand past the 200-mark.

Thereafter, in the very first over of Services’s reply, Rahul trapped Sumit Singh in front of the wicket. It triggered the slide as they lost three more in no time, with Rahul scalping two of them.

Services’s rise from such a situation was just not possible.