Badri, Dravid to the fore

India Cements score comfortable 25-run win over BSNL

Crafty: S Badrinath of India Cements en route to his 90 against BSNL in Bangalore on Wednesday. DH photo

The classy right-hander made a typically polished, measured, excellently crafted half-century as India Cements established their credentials as one of the teams to beat in the Corporate Trophy, opening their campaign with a comfortable 25-run victory.

Against a BSNL team that had played above itself in its opening game against Air India (Red), India Cements piled on the runs on a slowish surface as Dravid (63, 77b, 4x4, 1x6) associated himself in a century stand for the third wicket with S Badrinath (90, 108b, 6x4), and then whittled away at the BSNL batting through electric fielding rather than extraordinary bowling.

A short, sharp spell of rain in the afternoon forced a 3.15 pm start and a 47-over contest. Stuck in as black clouds hung menacingly overhead, India Cements owed it to the intelligence and industry of Dravid and Badrinath, and a late flourish from S Suresh Kumar, to post 253 for five.

BSNL needed a repeat of the top-order flourish of the previous day to make a match of it, but with KB Arun Karthik in excellent fielding form, and Abhinav Mukund and Lakshmipathi Balaji also accounting for run outs, they were never really in the hunt and finished at 228 for nine.

A brief pocket of resistance came when Anshul Kapoor and Ankur Kakkar added 61 (65b) for the fourth wicket, but both fell in successive deliveries, the former bowled by a beauty from off-spinner Suresh and latter run out following smart work at point by Balaji. Joginder Singh threw his bat around and struck three huge sixes, but Balaji obliged Dravid by getting rid of the opposition skipper in the first over of his comeback spell, and it was all over bar the shouting.

Dravid’s last 50-over outing was in March 2008, for South Zone in the Deodhar Trophy when he made 51 against Central in Hyderabad. The Cements skipper looked none the worse for the long gap as he straightaway hit his straps, beginning with an excellent on-driven boundary sixth ball before settling down to play his vaunted nip-and-tuck game with tremendous élan.

Batting at number four, Dravid found a near soulmate in Badrinath, the graceful Chennai right-hander whose methods of run-scoring aren’t dissimilar to his senior partner’s. United in the middle after Karthik was run-out following a mix-up with Mukund, who himself was foxed by a slower one to fall leg before, the two ran excellently between the wickets to provide a wonderful exhibition of how to construct an innings at a perfectly acceptable rate without resorting to crude across-the-line pyrotechnics in adding 127 (151b).

Dravid celebrated his fifty with a glorious off-drive for six, but an attempted paddle proved his undoing as he was bowled by the off-spin of Niranjan Behera. Badrinath fell to the same bowler a little later, but Suresh and Hemang Badani provided the momentum in the end.

Cements will meet Air India (Red) on Thursday to decide the semifinalist from this group.

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