Air India (Red) enter final

Air India (Red) enter final

Marathe scores fifty as Yuvrajs team registers 5-wicket win

Five weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Sushant Marathe (80 n.o., 106b, 8x4) turned in an exceptional display of batsmanship and temperament to pilot Air India (Red) to a five-wicket victory and a place in the final of the inaugural edition of the 50-over competition.

 In the face of probing bowling and even more hostile behaviour from an opposition that believed – rightly – that it had got rid of him on 29, the left-handed Mumbaikar anchored a shaky run chase with a maturity that belied his age.

Only umpire Subrata Das of everyone present at the ground believed Marathe had not edged the ball whilst attempting to sweep Sarandeep Singh and putting up a catch for Gautam Gambhir at slip to hold.

Apart from ONGC, though, no one else grudged him that slice of fortune, for otherwise, he hardly put a foot wrong.

As much as ONGC will point to that massive umpiring error as the primary reason for their exit, even cursory introspection will make it obvious that it was their own inept batting that proved their undoing.

Ask to take first strike after Yuvraj Singh won a third consecutive toss, ONGC had little else to show before and after a 92-run (108b) stand for the third wicket between Gambhir and Virat Kohli, and were bowled out for 213 with two overs left unutilised.

Air India appeared headed for a regulation victory when Robin Uthappa, without firing on all cylinders, and Marathe, promoted to number three, realised 94 (96b) for the second wicket.

A combination of intelligent off-spin from Sarandeep and poor shot selection saw them slip to 148 for five before man of the match Marathe and fellow Mumbai left-hander Ankit Chavan put on 67 (69b) for the unfinished sixth wicket to take the side to 215 for five.

Cover drive

Marathe looked in wonderful touch from the off, warming up with a handsome cover drive off Munaf Patel and continuing to target the right-arm medium-pacer, on a high after getting rid of Naman Ojha.

Uthappa played some glorious strokes but found himself in a bind against leggie Amit Mishra.

It was in the fitness of things that Mishra trapped Uthappa in front, triggering a slide that also consumed Suresh Raina and Yuvraj.

Fortunately for Air India, Marathe found an able ally in Chavan, becalmed at first but finishing the game off with a flurry of boundaries.

ONGC appeared to miss more than a trick. Just as they denied Ishant Sharma the new ball, they also went with Praveen Kumar to open the batting despite the plethora of openers at their disposal.

Air India weren’t complaining as Dhawal Kulkarni shot out both Praveen and Sandeep Sharma in successive deliveries, before Gambhir and the exciting Kohli cut loose.

The left-right combination complemented each other beautifully and looked to be running away with the game when Yuvraj brought himself on, and plucked out Kohli, who had been dropped by Uthappa at cover when just 12.

Gambhir’s dismissal when Uthappa didn’t repeat his earlier mistake saw the last seven wickets go down for 53. Just not enough.

Score board

NGC: Praveen Kumar c Kanitkar b Kulkarni 12 (19b, 2x4), Sandeep Sharma c Yuvraj b Kulkarni 8 (19b, 1x4), Gautam Gambhir c Uthappa b Raina 63 (75b, 4x4), Virat Kohli c & b Yuvraj 46 (57b, 4x4, 1x6), Tanmay Srivastav (run out) 29 (55b, 1x4), Ajay Ratra c Ojha b Mangela 5 (11b, 1x4), Mayank Tehlan c Chavan b Mangela 3 (6b), Amit Mishra c & b Netravalkar 5 (14b), Sarandeep Singh c Raina b Netravalkar 3 (7b), Ishant Sharma c Uthappa b Netravalkar 10 (12b), Munaf Patel (not out) 13 (14b, 2x4). Extras (LB-11, W-4, NB-1) 16. Total (all out, 48 overs) 213.

Fall of wickets: 1-25 (Praveen), 2-25 (Sandeep), 3-117 (Kohli), 4-160 (Gambhir), 5-172 (Ratra), 6-176 (Tehlan), 7-187 (Mishra), 8-189 (Srivastav), 9-193 (Sarandeep).

Bowling: Dhawal Kulkarni 10-0-40-3, Saurabh 9-0-38-2 (w-1), Moondeep 10-1-41-2 (nb-1), Ajit Chandila 10-0-42-0 (w-2), Suresh Raina 7-0-30-1 (w-1), Yuvraj Singh 2-0-11-1.

AIR INDIA (RED): Naman Ojha c Kohli b Patel 1 (5b), Robin Uthappa lbw Mishra 45 (49b, 7x4), Sushant Marathe (not out) 80 (106b, 8x4), Suresh Raina b Sarandeep 4 (9b), Yuvraj Singh c Ratra b Ishant 6 (13b, 1x4), Hrishikesh Kanitkar c Ratra b Sarandeep 13 (19b, 2x4), Ankit Chavan (not out) 41 (45b, 6x4). Extras (B-2, LB-3, W-14, NB-6) 25. Total (for 5 wkts, 40 overs) 215.

Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Ojha), 2-98 (Uthappa), 3-106 (Raina) , 4-123 (Yuvraj), 5-148 (Kanitkar).

Bowling: Praveen Kumar 6-0-30-0 (w-3, nb-1), Munaf 7-0-54-1 (w-3, nb-1), Mishra 7-0-40-1 (nb-1), Ishant 9-0-40-1 (w-3, nb-3), Sarandeep 10-1-36-2, Srivastav 1-0-10-0 (w-5).