Pandey spurs KSCA XI

Pandey spurs KSCA XI

Deepak Chougule compiles a patient half-century

Powerful Shot: Manish Pandey slog sweeps en route to his hundred on Friday. DH photo

The right-handed number four made a most timely return to run-scoring ways at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Friday as KSCA XI cashed in on Sunil Joshi’s luck with the toss in the final of the KSCA all-India invitation tournament against Air India Sports Club.

Whilst it wasn’t Pandey (116, 192m, 143b, 14x4, 1x6) all the way, the wiry lad was the cornerstone around which the hosts built a formidable total of 395 on day one of the two-day title clash. Last year’s losing finalists have a job on their hands now as they seek to go one better this time around, a job made difficult by a surface where the ball isn’t exactly rushing on to the bat, and the bounce is anything but predictable.

Deepak Chougule, the little number three who has been in a rich vein of recent form, was Pandey’s comrade-in-arms in a crucial third-wicket stand that settled queasy nerves in the change room following two early strikes by Siddarth Trivedi. The lanky right-arm medium-pacer had the in-form KB Pawan caught behind and dismissed last- game centurion CM Gautam on the pull, caught at mid-on, as KSCA XI slumped to 29 for two inside 13 overs.

Out walked Pandey, determined to make his mark. With Chougule happy to play within himself, Pandey went on the attack, boundaries flowing willy-nilly off his willow. It wasn’t by any means a chanceless knock -- he was put down at mid-on by Ajit Chandela trying to slog-sweep young left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh when 75, and again on 95 by a diving Robin Uthappa at short-cover -- but Pandey rode his luck brilliantly to bring up three-figures in style.

Chougule (79, 177m, 156b, 9x4) was more industrious, working the gaps and preferring ones and twos as his regular mode of scoring. His was a blemishless knock, the first indiscretion as he walked across the line to sweep offie Chandela costing him his scalp after a 192-run (171m, 286b) association with Pandey.

Thilak Naidu (44, 87m, 79b, 5x4) looked in the mood with some handsome strokes, but KSCA XI gradually lost wickets as the impressive Harmeet wove a fine web with his left-arm spin. The youngster finished with four for 96, just reward for manful toil, and looked primed to undo the good work of the middle order until B Akhil (4) and R Vinay Kumar (29) pushed the total in the vicinity of 400.

Brief scores: KSCA XI: 395 all out in 98.2 overs (Deepak Chougule 79, Manish Pandey 116, Thilak Naidu 44, B Akhil 40, R Vinay Kumar 29; Siddarth Trivedi 3-57, Harmeet Singh 4-96) vs Air India Sports Club.