KOCHI: Kerala created history as they entered the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy for the first time after beating Haryana by an innings and eight runs at Chaudhry Bansi Lal Stadium, Lahli on Tuesday.
Having required five wickets on the final day, Kerala finished off Haryana resistance at the stroke of lunch for 173 after Basil Thampi opened the floodgates by scalping Rohit Sharma. On the onus of the innings win, Kerala bagged seven points and catapulted themselves to the second position with 31 points in Group B behind Gujarat, the title holders who have 34.
Kerala's best journey in Ranji Trophy so far was their entry into the pre-quarters in 1993-94 where they were eliminated by Uttar Pradesh. They again made it to the second round in 1996-97, but couldn't push through to the last eight. Thereafter, it has been a tough ride for Kerala as they couldn't hold their verve in the country's top domestic competition.
It was Australian Dav Whatmore's appointment as the coach that set the tone for Kerala's resilience. The Aussie, who had led Sri Lanka to the World Cup title in 1996, had a clear idea of what to do with the youngsters. Under him, young blood like Sanju Samson graduated to the next level, while seasoned campaigners like Jalaj Saxena found an ideal mentor in Whatmore.
Resuming their innings at 83 for five, Haryana could hold out their neck for an hour in the morning. But once Rohit was removed by Basil, the writing was clear on the wall. Haryanvi resistance withered away by lunch as MD Nidheesh joined the party by picking up three tail-enders to garner a pass to the next round, where they will face Bengal.