Skipper Sanju Samson stood out with a sublime 128 to lead Board President’s XI fightback against visiting Sri Lanka as their two-day tour match ended in a draw in Kolkata.
In reply to Sri Lanka’s 411/9 declared, the Board President’s XI were struggling at 31/2 after lunch on the second day, but Samson patiently built his innings and helped his side reach 287/5 when both captains agreed on a stalemate after 75 overs.
During his 143-ball knock, Samson hit 19 fours and one six.
Appointed skipper on the eve of the match after Naman Ojha was ruled out with an injury, the Kerala youngster showed big match temperament as he took on the Sri Lankan Test attack with ease.
Samson anchored the Board innings with three useful partnerships of 68, 71 and 85 runs with Jiwanjot Singh (35), Rohan Prem (39) and Bavanaka Sandeep (33) respectively.
On a track that offered little help to bowlers, Sri Lanka ended up using 10 bowlers, including regular wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, who bowled the last over of the match.
Ace all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who is recovering from a calf injury that forced him out of the entire Pakistan series, however was not seen bowling his medium pacers. Bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake said Mathews would not bowl in the upcoming three Test series beginning at Eden Gardens on November 16.
“He will not be used as a bowler as we have enough options for the bowling all-rounders’ slot,” Ratnayake said.
On a frustrating day for the Lankan attack, it was their new-ball bowler Lahiru Gamage, who was most effective en route to his 2/41. The medium pacer dismissed Tanmay Agarwal (16) and Anmolpreet Singh (3) in successive overs to give them a promising start before Samson seized the momentum and completed his fifty from 63 balls.
Samson completed his century in 123 balls, driving off- spinner Dhananjaya de Silva through cover for two runs and charged him next ball over deep midwicket for the innings’ only six. He tried to play an uppercut against a bouncer by Vishwa Fernando but the ball kissed his bat before going into the safe hands of Sadeera Samarawickrama, who took over wicket- keeping duty from Dickwella before the tea break.
Earlier, Board’s openers Tanmay Agarwal and Jiwanjot Singh started the proceedings on a watchful note as Lankan pacers Lakmal and Gamage kept probing an off-stump line looking for an outside edge. It took the Lankans eight overs to get the first breakthrough as Gamage struck in successive overs to dismiss Agarwal (16) and in-form Anmolpreet Singh (3).
Credit should go to Gamage for setting up Agarwal with a short ball that was dispatched to the boundary and he followed that up with a quick fuller ball that trapped the Board’s batsman.
Fresh from his impressive 267 and 113 in the last two Ranji Trophy outings, Punjab youngster Anmolpreet got out in Gamage’s next over off a stunning catch at point from Danus Shanaka. Anmolpreet played a half-hearted square cut as Sri Lanka reduced the Board’s team to 31/2 in the first hour.
But before the Lankans could make further inroad, Samson steadied the ship with Jiwanjot giving him company. Sri Lanka brought in Rangana Herath in the 15th over but the experienced spinner got little help from the placid wicket in his spell of 6-0-15-0.
Samson and Jiwanjot went about their tasks, cutting and playing sweep against the 39-year-old, as they remained unbroken till lunch with 89/2 on board.
It was in the fourth over after lunch when off-spinner Perera dismissed Jiwanjot, but Samson stood firm.