Dav Whatmore
Dav Whatmore (AFP Photo)

Kerala on Thursday became the first team this Ranji Trophy season to make it to the semi-finals after beating former champions Gujarat by 113 runs in Waynad.

The Sachin Baby-led outfit created history by becoming the first team from the state to make it to the last-four. Chasing 195 to win, Gujarat were skittled for 85 in a quarter-final with Basil Thampi being chosen as the player-of-the-match for his allround show.

The match ended inside three days with 39 wickets falling within seven sessions. Kerala coach Dave Whatmore said his bowlers were rewarded for consistently hitting the right areas. “The wicket in Wayanad, I am let to believe, is historically suited to pace bowling,” Whatmore told CricketNext. “We have a good battery of pace bowlers. We directed the ball more often in the right areas than anyone else and got the rewards for it. We got the better of the match by being able to produce more pace and directing the ball in the right areas.”

The 64-year-old world cup winning coach is satisfied with the intent shown by his players on a pitch difficult for batting. Kerala were put in to bat at the Krishnagiri Stadium and made 185/9 with Sanju Samson retiring hurt after suffering a fracture on his finger. Thampi top-scored with 37 before combining with fellow pacers Sandeep Warrier and MD Nidheesh to bowl Gujarat out for 162 and thus taking 23-run lead.

In their second dig after vital contributions from Sijomen Joseph (56) and Jalaj Saxena (44*), Kerala were bowled out for 171 with Samson coming out to bat with the injured finger. Thampi then took a five-wicket haul while Warrier took four-fer to seal the semi-final berth.

“I am very satisfied with the victory. Pleased with the reaction of the whole squad. It was heartening to see that people from Wayanad and from other neighbouring districts come to the ground and watch the game. This is what we are playing for – to perform in the middle. This was a very significant victory against a good Gujarat side,” Whatmore said.

He continued, “I was really happy with the intent our players showed. We knew batting was never going to be easy as a lot was going to happen from the wicket. And the boys executed their plans really well.

On Thampi, the Australian said, “Thampi is progressing very nicely. People have touted him as a white ball bowler but he is now beginning to bowl much longer spells than he did before, and doing it successfully. Plus, he scored 37 runs in the first innings and was declared the man of the match, rightfully.”

“You have to enjoy your victories, but there isn’t much time till the next game. We are most likely going to take on the side that beat us in the quarter-final last season (Vidarbha). We will have our work cut out against them. We won’t be celebrating for too long as we need to be on top of our game.”