The Telegraph
Thursday , March 13 , 2014
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Pacers again make all the difference
Railways thrash Punjab by 137 runs, to meet Bengal in last 4

Mahesh Rawat after his century, on Wednesday

Calcutta: No matter how coincidental you may think it to be, but it’s eerie how every time the floodlights have been switched on at the Eden, in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, the ‘lights’ have gone out for the team batting second.

It’s the same pitch, under the same sky, but the floodlights have simply knocked the daylight out of the team batting in the evening at the Eden.

The story wasn’t different on Wednesday either as Railways thrashed a strong Punjab side by 137 runs. The Punjab batsmen couldn’t even put up a decent resistance as the Railways pacers — Anureet Singh, Krishnakant Upadhyay and Amit Mishra — bowled like men possessed.

The way they swung the ball, often cutting the batsmen into half or squaring them up, one wondered if it was the Eden or the Waca! However, everything was close to normal in the afternoon when Railways batted. Yes, there was bounce; yes, there was some lateral movement off the pitch; but it was not as deadly as it was in the evening.

Batting second, Baroda were bowled out for 137 in their pre-quarter final tie against Railways. Then, Bengal humiliated Tamil Nadu bundling them out for just 90 on Tuesday evening. Punjab, on Wednesday, managed 105. What will happen on Friday when Bengal and Railways cross swords in the semis? If the trend continues, one just has to wait till the toss to predict the winner.

Chasing 243 for victory, Punjab got the worst possible start, losing Manan Vohra off the very first delivery of the innings. Thereafter, the wickets kept tumbling. Sandeep Sharma (3), Mandeep Singh (0) and Gitansh Khera (23) fell to pace. At 31 for four, Punjab were in trouble. And it was disaster when star batsman Yuvraj Singh (15) was unfortunately run out. From 51 for five, Punjab never recovered.

Anureet and Krishnakant got two wickets each while spinner Ashish Yadav picked up three. Mandeep unleashed a magical delivery to dismiss Mandeep. It pitched outside off and then cut in miles to go through the batsman’s gate, uprooting his leg-stump.

Earlier, Railways captain Mahesh Rawat chose the perfect occasion to register his maiden three-figure score in List A cricket when he bailed his team out of trouble with a run-a-ball 108.

It was only because of Man of the Match Rawat and Rongsen Jonathan (58), who shared a 141-run partnership, that Railways managed to put up a respectable 242 on the board.

Rongsen’s 58 came off 78 balls and had eight boundaries. He was out in the 42nd over. But Rawat carried on till the 47th. Rawat hit 13 boundaries and a huge six off Harbhajan over the mid-wicket region. Had the Railways batsmen not lost the plot towards the end, they could have ended with a bigger total. Railways’ last five wickets fell for just 37 runs.

Among the other Railways players, Shivakant Shukla was the next best scorer with 16.

Punjab’s pace trio of Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul and Manpreet Gony bowled well, but were not unplayable.

Poor shot selection brought the Railways batsmen’s downfall. The first Railways batsman who surrendered to temptation was Amit Paunikar (8). He needlessly chased a wide delivery from Kaul, edging it to slip.

Then, Shivakant’s effort to guide an ordinary Sandeep delivery to the third man region ended in Punjab wicketkeeper Gitansh Khera’s gloves. Arindam Ghosh (13), a heavy scorer in the Ranji Trophy, too perished behind the stumps when he edged one from Gony while attempting a drive. Ashish Yadav (8) was next, his half-hearted push off Gony resulting in a thick outside edge to Khera. At the end of 16 overs, Railways were tottering at 64 for four.

For Punjab, Siddarth was the most successful bowler with five scalps while Punjab captain Harbhajan Singh, on his favourite ground, was wicketless.

Semi-final line-up

Karnataka vs Jharkhand (JU Salt Lake Campus)
Bengal vs Railways (Eden Gardens)
Both matches on Friday