Wall Dravid steers India ~~A~~ to Challenger Trophy title

Published: Friday, February 11, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Skipper Rahul Dravid coasted India 'A' to the NKP Salve Challenger one-day cricket tournament title with a measured innings of unbeaten 72 in the summit clash against India Seniors at the Wankhede Stadium here tonight.

Set 212 to win by Sourav Ganguly's India Seniors, who were skittled out for 211 in 47.2 overs after chosing to bat first, India 'A' won the match by six wickets with eight balls to spare.

Dravid's innings came in 101 balls and included six fours and he was involved in two crucial stands worth 101 runs with opener Dheeraj Jadav, who made a patient 58, and an unbroken 73 runs for the fifth wicket with Mohammed Kaif who remained unconquered on 42.

Dravid and Jadav joined forces when India 'A' were in dire straits at 38 for three in the 12th over following a fiery opening spell by Laxmipathy Balaji during which he pegged back opener Satyajit Parab and one-down Dinesh Kaarthik cheaply.

Balaji struck two big blows by having Parab and Dinesh Kaarthik caught behind by Mahendra Singh Dhoni off lifting deliveries to put India 'A' under pressure at 14 for 2 by the fifth over.

Lanky Bengal pacer Ranadeb Bose then removed Dinesh Mongia (15) via a brilliant catch taken by Niraj Patel at square leg when the batsman flicked upishly.

This brought together Dravid and Jadhav and the two steadied the rocking boat with calm assurance.

After 25 overs, India 'A' were 85 for 3 and the 100 was reached in 28.2 overs.

Jadhav completed his half century in 104 balls with the help of five fours and then got out when he tried to give charge to Ganguly and was stumped.

Undeterred by this loss, Dravid and Kaif kept the tempo going and finished the job in style.

Dravid had come into the game with scores of 45 not out and 115 while Kaif also had shown good touch with innings of 49 not out and 63 in the league phase of the tournament.

The winners received Rs 5 lakh and the runners-up got Rs 2.5 lakh.

Earlier, Ganguly and Niraj Patel batted fluently to notch individual half centuries but India Seniors never recovered fully from a poor start and were shot out for 211.

Ganguly had won the opening battle in his skirmish with India 'A' captain Rahul Dravid by winning the toss, but thereafter was forced to see wickets tumble at the other end as India Seniors were bowled out in the 48th over itself.

Young Uttar Pradesh left arm medium pacer Rudra Pratap Singh broke the back of the India Seniors innings with a three-wicket burst, including two in his first over, during his long spell of 8 overs. His opening spell figures read an impressive 3 for 28 and he finally finished with 3 for 42 in 9.

Ganguly timed the ball beautifully and struck some trademark drives and cuts while making 51 off 78 balls with nine fours before being run out, while Patel also impressed while making 65 off 66 balls with 8 fours and 2 sixes. But the remaining batsmen failed to flourish on a good batting track.

India Seniors were sent scampering for cover by the 20-year-old Singh's double strike when he dismissed opener Mahendra Singh Dhoni, hero of their comprehensive win over India 'B' in the league phase, and Suresh Raina cheaply.

Dhoni, who carted the ball all round in the match against India 'B' while making a brilliant 102 not out, chased a ball that moved away a bit and edged it to wicketkeeper Dinesh Kaarthik for only 1.

Two balls later left-handed Raina perished when he was beaten comprehensively and bowled by Rudra Pratap for a nought to reduce India Seniors to 11 for 2 in the second over.

A brief stand of 37 ensued between Ganguly and Dhawan for the third wicket but was nipped in time before it could assume bigger proportions by Rudra Pratap when he angled a ball across the latter's bat to take the edge for stumper Kaarthik to bring off a regulation catch.

Things would have become bleaker had Kaarthik accepted an edge from Ganguly soon after when the India Seniors skipper was on 30 in a team total of 48. Ganguly escaped but saw his big hope Yuvraj Singh (3) perish to a clever piece of bowling from Zaheer Khan who held one back to deceive the latter and accepted the return catch gleefully.

Things looked very difficult for India Seniors at 54 for 4 when Yalaka Venugopal Rao joined his captain and set about repairing the innings.

The duo carried the score to 93 when Shiv Shankar Paul had Rao caught behind when the batsman drove at him.

And when Ganguly fell, soon after reaching his half century, unable to beat a sharp throw to the keeper's end from Dinesh Mongia from fine leg after Niraj Patel had played a paddle sweep, the India Seniors were firmly pushed back.

Patel looked in good nick with some spanking straight drives off Zaheer Khan in his second spell, and Anil Kumble then provided the best partnership for the innings by adding 50 for the 7th wicket. He was finally out in the 43rd over.

Dinesh Mongia once again got among the wickets with a haul of 2 for 21 in 32 balls while frontline left arm spinner Murali Kartik bowled economically to give away only 39 runs in his ten overs.

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