Eden Gardens was reminded of the glory days of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Former KKR all-rounder Yusuf Pathan and Tanmay Srivastava struck blazing fifties as the India Maharajas, all wearing No. 75 to mark 75 years of Independence, beat the World Giants by seven wickets on Friday.
Chasing a daunting 171, the home side was reeling at 56 for 3 at one stage. But Pathan (50* off 35) and Srivastava (54 off 39) forged a mammoth 103-run fourth-wicket stand to make the result a foregone conclusion. This was after former Test bowler Pankaj Singh had a night to remember, returning remarkable figures of 5 for 26 to overshadow Kevin O’Brien’s half-century.
Almost the entire crowd cut a disappointing figure as Virender Sehwag (4 off 5) got out in the very first over to West Indian Fidel Edwards. The 40-year-old speedster looked his menacing self as balls were either flying off the blade or thudding into countrymate Ramdin’s gloves.
England’s Tim Bresnan too got into the act, removing the other opener Parthiv Patel and Kaif to leave the Maharajas in a precarious position. For a team with a thin batting line-up, the triple blows sounded the death knell for the home side. Due credit should also be given to the visitors, who bowled a disciplined line and length.
But Tanmay Srivastava - who won the U19 World Cup with Virat Kohli - and Yusuf Pathan had other ideas. They treated Muttiah Muralitharan (0 for 23) and Daniel Vettori (0 for 26), two legendary spinners, to a flurry of shots off the back foot. Even their most promising looking Edwards (1 for 39) wasn’t spared, as the duo put up a 103-run alliance off just 62 deliveries. The required rate, which was 9.6 at the halfway mark, plummeted to 5.7 with the final four overs remaining.
While Pathan targeted the cow corner boundary, Srivastava launched into balls short and wide outside off. Bresnan, though, came back to reinvigorate the Giants’s hopes as Srivastava holed out at long on in a bid to finish the match early. But it turned out to be a false alarm.
In a rather poetic fashion, Irfan Pathan (20* off 9), with his brother at the other end, hit Edwards for two consecutive sixes to wrap up the chase with 8 balls remaining.
Pankaj Singh registers memorable five-wicket haul at Eden Gardens
Earlier, after electing to bat, openers Kevin O’Brien and Hamilton Masakadza gave the World Giants a breezy start. Even though Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth were getting the new ball to jag back into the right-handers, their military medium pace rendered them toothless.
O’Brien raced to 29 off 18 balls, including hitting the first six, off Sreesanth, as the 50-run alliance came up in 5.2 overs. It was, however, Pankaj Singh who provided the first breakthrough as Masakadza (18 off 15) hit one straight to Tanmay Srivastava at extra cover.
The Irish all-rounder, though, continued on his merry way to finish the powerplay with two consecutive boundaries and propel the score to 59 for 1. The run-flow didn’t relent even after the fielding restrictions were lifted. Joginder Sharma, India’s 2007 World T20 hero, was guilty of not bowling to his leg-side-heavy field as O’Brien plundered him for three boundaries to raise his bat after 29 balls. The 38-year-old, however, made amends by removing the danger man right after the drinks break.
Captain Harbhajan Singh, bowling from the other end, was struggling with his line, unfurling a host of deliveries down the leg side. But as luck would have it, one of the looseners hit his counterpart Jacques Kallis’ arm and got deflected onto the stumps. Exactly how Harbhajan had taken out Tillakaratne Dilshan in the 2011 World Cup final. Two wickets in as many overs meant dot balls were to follow. There was a period of 38 balls without a boundary as the Giants, from cruising at 85 for 1 after nine overs, managed to score just 26 in the next six.
Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera (23 off 16) injected some momentum into the innings with two sixes and a boundary. But trying to take on the part-time off spin of Mohammad Kaif, who was completing injured Ashoke Dinda’s over, the all-rounder’s outside edge flew to short third man, where substitute Parvinder Awana dived to his left and plucked a blinder.
Denesh Ramdin (42* offf 29), who was on 11 off 18 at one point, stuck into Sreesanth (0 for 46) and hit him for four consecutive boundaries in the penultimate over. Player of the Match Pankaj Singh, however, gave a grandstand finish as he bowled a triple-wicket maiden in the last and restricted the World side to 170 for 8.
The benefit match tonight kickstarts the second season of the Legends League Cricket (LLC), with Gautam Gambhir's India Capitals taking on the Sehwag-led Gujarat Giants tomorrow.