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Railways strikes back

By Our Principal Correspondent

CHENNAI, FEB. 15. Three overs before stumps Indian Railways' skipper Deepa Marathe tossed the ball to Amitha Sharma, praying that the mediumpacer would provide the much-needed breakthrough in her second spell. Fortunately for the defending champion, she did. Twice in fact, in successive overs, to enable the team end the day on a positive note.

The spinners had done well in keeping Air-India on a tight leash, but it was obvious that containing alone would not be enough in what is turning out to be a low-scoring final in the MNMJEC-senior National women's cricket championship at the SRMC ground here.

Railways' tally of 148, after it opted to bat on Tuesday, was clearly not enough, considering that the first innings in the three-day face-off is 90 overs per side, while the second essay is restricted to 45 overs each. Air-India's leg-spinner Devika Palshikar took five wickets.

After the sprightly seamer Rumeli Dhar had Air-India opener Karuna Jain leg-before — she had rapped her on the pads the previous delivery — Railways' spin trio of left-arm Neetu David and Deepa and offie Nooshen-Al-Khadeer, quite simply froze the opposition. The pair of Anju Jain (24, 107b, 3x4) and left-hander Anjum Chopra (21, 66b, 1x4) was up to the task, putting on 37 for the second wicket, experienced hands that they are in the patience game. And had the duo seen through the day, then, Air-India would clearly have had the upper hand.

Big blow

Replacing Nooshen at the far end, Amitha had Anjum caught by Deepa at slip. The ball swung into the left-hander, Anjum played across the line only to get a leading edge.

Anju Jain's dismissal was a big blow for Air-India. The opener was a pillar of strength and played according to the situation. She had two reprieves though — Deepa missing both the caught and bowled opportunities. At stumps, Air-India was 54 for three.

It was indeed a fine comeback by Railways, playing without its skipper and star batswoman Mithali Raj, who was indisposed. Railways was cruising at 131 for three, thanks to the 69-run stand for the fourth wicket between Hemalatha Kala (43, 83b, 6x4) and the gritty Arundhati Kirkire (30, 86b, 3x4), before leg-spinner Devika spun a web with her second spell that read 7-2-19-5. The other leg-spinner Amritha Shinde took two wickets.

The scores: Indian Railways 148 in 59 overs (Jaya Sharma 26, Hemalatha Kala 43, Arundhati Kirkire 30, Devika Palshikar five for 36) v Air-India 54 for three in 32 overs.

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