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|Sriram, Rao keep South's hopes alive|
Tuesday, February 24 2004 14:16 Hrs (IST)
Chasing a mammoth victory target of 501 in the fourth innings, South Zone were placed at a healthy 171 for two by close on the third and penultimate day at the Teri Oval. Left-hander Sriram was batting on 78 while Venugopala Rao was 88 not out.
The huge century stand between the two diminutive batsmen for the third wicket came after the tourists had declared their second innings at 297 for eight half an hour before tea and then dismissed the South's two opening batsman with only one run on the board.
However, Sriram and Venugopala Rao were in imperious form as they played some delightful strokes to blunt the England bowlers.
The latter in particular played some daring cuts over the slip fielders' head against the quick bowling of England international Simon Jones and Sajid Mahmood. The Andhra right-hander was also impressive with his copybook straight drives.
Venugopala Rao's 88 contained 14 fours and came off 146 balls while Sriram's 78 included only seven fours but came at a faster rate in 99 balls.
Sriram typically built his innings with sharp singles but he was not averse to opening the blade and turning the ball to cover or point boundary whenever the bowlers erred in line.
The duo's gallant batting not only enhanced their personal profile in the eyes of the national selectors on view but also has given their team a reason to hope for an improbable victory.
How much the finger injury to captain Sadagopan Ramesh, who did not bat in the first innings, proves to be a handicap remains to be seen. The left-handed opener had declared himself fit for the next match though.
Earlier, resuming at 88 for three, England's second string lost their overnight batsman Matthew Prior with only one run added to the score.
But first innings centurion Kevin Pietersen once again came to the team's rescue with a swashbuckling 115 that came from 164 balls and included 10 fours and two sixes.
The tall right-hander fell to the left-arm spin of Sriram playing a reverse sweep as the visitors accelerated the scoring rate.
South still allowed the proceedings to go out of control as Graham Napier (64 no) and James Tredwell (36) added 57 runs for the seventh wicket.
England 'A' 377 and 297 for 8 decl in 79 overs (K Pietersen 115, B Shafayat 34, G Napier 64 no, J Tredwell 36; Sreeshant 3-79, S Joshi 3-91) vs South Zone 174 and 171 for two in 41 overs (S Sriram 78 batting, Y Venugopala Rao 88 batting).
South Zone crumbles against England 'A'