Even though the final of the 48th Goswami Ganesh Dutt Memorial Cricket Tournament was shorn of a few first-choice players, as Himmat Singh, Dev Lakra, Hrithik Shokeen, Lakshay Thareja, Vaibhav Rawal and Pramod Chandila were missing from the playing XIs of the two competing sides – eventual winners Collage and Goat XI — since they had gone to play the Dehradun Gold Cup mostly on official state association duty, a few new stars were born in the cliff-hanger.
Collage won the match by one wicket on the last ball of the 30th over after the game was reduced to 30-overs-a-side due to rain threat. They had two young Meerut batsmen, playing age-group cricket for Uttar Pradesh, and a Rajasthan pacer to thank for the victory.
The total put up by Goat XI, 244 (all out in 30 overs), was challenging.
But Sameer Rizvi, 20, who led the Uttar Pradesh under-25 last season and his UP teammate Rituraj Sharma scripted a remarkable chase.
Collage began well, scoring at over eight in the first four overs. But two quick wickets set them back.
Rizvi walked in to bat at No. 4 with just one over to go for power-play.
“I got to face only four deliveries in the power-play. The first ball was a dot delivery. So the idea was to score two fours in the remaining three deliveries,” said Rizvi, who scored 57 off 31 balls (5x4s, 4x6s).
He directed the second ball he faced through point for four.
“My target was to plunder as many runs as I could,” added Rizvi.
Plunder he did as he went after ex-India under-19 left-arm spinner Harsh Tyagi, who played as replacement of one of the players. Rizvi smothered him for three sixes and a four, taking 22 in one over to set up the chase.
He added 51 with Sachin Singh for the third wicket and then 49 for the fourth wicket with Arun Chaprana before holing out to long-off against Manjeet.
Rituraj Sharma, 21, then took charge after walking in at the fall of Rizvi’s wicket and kept the runs flowing despite wickets falling around him towards the end. He added 38 with Arun Chaprana (29 off 30).
The left-handed batsman finished with unbeaten 60 off 44 balls (4x4s, 3x6s). His first scoring shot was a six over long-on off Ankit Chauhan.
Then he milked Manjeet for two fours in an over. Sharma wanted to stay till the end.
“My plan was to not lose the momentum after Rizvi’s dismissal. The batsmen at the other end were also playing slow. But I thought of just keep playing and not get under pressure. We lost a few wickets so the plan for me was to play till the end. I thought of getting 10-12 runs an over, even if wickets fell,” added Sharma, who plays in the rival team of Rizvi’s in local cricket in Meerut.
With 13 needed off the last ball, Rituraj hammered a six straight down to bring the equation down and then when four were needed off the last ball, he flicked one to square-leg fence to win for Collage the title.
But this chase wouldn’t have been possible had it not been pace bowler Ajay Dharnia, who represented Rajasthan under-25 last season.
Dharnia took 5/42 and earned the man-of-the-match award after his spell restricted Goat XI from running away with the game.
“The pitch was a bit tough for the batsmen so I tried to exploit the pitch and take whatever help I could take. A part of our plan was not to leak runs in the death overs, bowl according to field. I was successful,” said Dharnia.
“It was a bit overcast and the breeze was cool. So we tried to bowl up to the batsmen and swing it. Their batsmen were attacking and they tried to come out and play. We got a couple of breakthroughs from that too,” he added.
The 23-year-old used variations to good effect.
His first wicket came off a catch in slip, the second one fell to a catch at short cover. He got the remaining three in the death overs with two coming off slower deliveries.
“We were successful in stopping the runs. Our batsmen chased well,” added the bowler.
While Dharnia got man-of-the-match award, Bhagmender Lather of semi-finalists Delhi Challengers was awarded man-of-the-series.
Lather, the Chandigarh lad, had scored two centuries in the tournament.