Ranji Trophy: Jalaj Saxena extremely happy to be in elite company of cricketing greats after record feat
Jalaj Saxena: the only player in Ranji Trophy history to score a century and claim an eight-wicket haul in an innings in a single match - twice.

In just over two years, Jalaj Saxena has proved himself to be a match winner for Kerala, a role he was well versed with, for his home state of Madhya Pradesh for 11 years.

After leading Kerala to their first ever Ranji Trophy knockouts last year with 522 runs and 44 wickets, Saxena has now led Kerala to their first victory of the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season scoring 133 and claiming nine wickets in a match, including a career-best 8/45 in the second innings against Andhra.

What makes his performance even more special is the fact that he is the only player in Ranji Trophy history to score a century and claim an eight-wicket haul in an innings in a single match on two occasions. This puts Saxena in the elite company of the likes of WG Grace, Frank Tarrant and Frank Woolley to achieve this rare double in first-class cricket.

Speaking to CricketCountry after Kerala’s win over Andhra in Trivandrum on Friday, the experienced allrounder says he came to know about the record later. “I am extremely happy to have achieved it. When I started playing cricket I never thought I will be in any kind of list among these greats, so extremely happy about it,” he says.

Saxena first achieved this feat last season at the same venue, the St Xavier’s Cricket Ground in Thumba, against Rajasthan when he scored 105 not out and took 8/85. The surface, he says, were completely different on both occasions.

Jalaj Saxena led Kerala to their first victory of the Ranji Trophy season
Jalaj Saxena led Kerala to their first victory of the Ranji Trophy season. (Image: Facebook)

“It was the same ground, but last year we played on red soil and this time it is more clay based. In red soil you get better bounce as a spinner which is helpful, but that is not the case with the clay based soil, but the wicket was very true, it was a good cricketing wicket,” says the 31-year-old.

After Kerala’s opening match against Hyderabad was hampered by rain, the Sachin Baby-led side had to be content with just one point and was aiming for full points in their second home game, before travelling to Kolkata for the third round. “After taking just one point from the out first game, we knew we had to do well here and get a result and we got that that,” says Saxena.

The other notable performance for Kerala came from 22-year-old left-arm spinner KC Akshay who took six wickets in the match, and Saxena underlined his bowling partnership with him as a key contributor in the victory.

“Akshay is a really good bowler and it is all about partnerships in bowling. If I am bowling well and he is not, or if he is is bowling well and I am not then it is not going to work,” says Saxena. “We both bowled well in the match. He got the wickets in the first innings (four), and I got the wickets in the second innings (eight), so that’s how it works.”

In the first match, Saxena scored 57 and claimed one wicket and has followed it up with a century and record haul in the second. With this win, Kerala have climbed to the top of the points tally with seven points, and are the only team to win a match from Elite Group B after two rounds.