Ranji Trophy 2023-24: Thampi’s late burst against Bengal gives Kerala first win of the season

A late shot of adrenaline by Basil Thampi gave Kerala its first win of the season in the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament at the St. Xavier’s College ground here on Monday.

Banished to patrol the ropes for a major part of the day, Basil Thampi was summoned by captain Sanju Samson to bowl only after the tea break. Chasing a mammoth target of 449, the Bengal lower order led by Shahbaz Ahmed frustrated Kerala in the post lunch session. The seventh-wicket stand between Shahbaz Ahmed (80) and Karan Lal (40) added 83 quick runs and treated Kerala spinners with disdain which forced Sanju to turn to his faster bowler.

Thampi responded in style by breaching the defence of Suraj Sindhu Jaiswal (13) and in the next over ran out Akash Deep (1) with a brilliant pick up and throw from mid-on. A pumped up Thampi then wrapped up the Bengal innings when he had Shahbaz Ahmed skying a catch to Rohan Kunnummal at deep square leg fence. Within 16 deliveries Thampi ended the spirited chase from Bengal, giving Kerala a 109-run win.

Until Shahbaz and Karan Lal joined forces, Kerala held the upper hand with spinners striking at regular intervals, reducing Bengal to 234 for six. Jalaj Saxena, despite bowling with a swollen finger, was relentless and got wickets when the batters went after him. He finished with match figures of 13 for 172.

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Manoj Tiwary, who got a reprieve on 7 after being given lbw off a Jalaj no ball, used the reverse and traditional sweeps to pile pressure on the off spinner. However, the extra aggression from Bengal batters only resulted in their dismissals. Easwaran (65) tried to hit Jalaj over midwicket but ended up giving a catch to N.P. Basil and Tiwary’s (35) urge to dominate Jalaj resulted in a catch to Sanju. The trend continued with Abhishek Porel (28) after slamming Shreyas Gopal for consecutive sixes gave a tame return catch to the bowler.

Sanju was forced to turn to N.P Basil when the seventh wicket stand between Shahbaz and Karan became threatening. The bowler gave Kerala a fortuitous breakthrough when Karan Lal swished and nicked but the ball popped out from wicketkeeper Azharuddeen’s gloves. However, substitute fielder Krishna Prasad was alert enough to gather the rebound. After tea, Thampi ran in hard to end Bengal’s resistance.

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