Rajkot, Oct. 3 -- On the last ball of the third over, Murali Vijay edged an Abhimanyu Mithun delivery while trying to play across the line. The ball flew in the cover region where Manish Pandey was positioned. Vijay froze for a moment before heaving a sigh of relief, as a diving Pandey could not latch on to the catch.
That was the turning point of the game as the right-handed opener blasted India 'A' out of the final in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy final at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium on Tuesday. India 'B' posted a huge 356 and then won by a comfortable margin of 139 runs.
After failing in the first game against India 'A' on Sunday, Vijay struck an attacking 93 on Monday to help his side beat Bengal. And, after surviving a scare in the title clash, Vijay took his game to a different level, bludgeoning 155.
As soon as Parwinder Awana was introduced into the attack, Vijay demoralised the 26-year-old by lifting him off the back-foot over deep midwicket for consecutive boundaries. He then punished Yusuf Pathan, smashing two sixes off the spinner. Finally, when he tried to smack Mithun off the back foot, he was caught at long on.
At the other end, captain Cheteshwar Pujara continued his dream run. He started cautiously but ended up scoring 79 off 80 balls.
His appetite for lengthy periods at the crease almost earned him a third century in three days. Finally, Kedar Jadhav lit up the proceedings in the end, helping his team scale the 350-rin peak.
Shikhar Dhawan then started on a confident note. He followed up his unbeaten 99 and 152 in the previous games with a 61.
Ajinkya Rahane too displayed good form, striking a solid 64. But Staurt Binny ended any challenge from the late order, snaring three wickets.
Brief scores: India 'B' 356/3 (M Vijay 155, C Pujara 79, K Jadhav 60*; P Ojha 1/64) bt India 'A' 217 (S Dhawan 61, A Rahane 64, M Pandey 47; S Binny 3/26, B Aparajith 2/38, R Jadeja 2/37) by 139 runs.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.