Shillong, Feb 19: Nagaland won the final of the U-23 men’s Col CK Nayudu Trophy Plate Group by seven wickets over Meghalaya in Sovima, Nagaland, today.

The match began yesterday with Meghalaya being bowled out for 108 and the hosts ending on 50/1 at stumps.

Today, 22 more wickets fell as the bowlers made merry – Nagaland were all out for 109 but Meghalaya were then skittled for 53 in their second innings, which Nagaland were able to chase down for the loss of three wickets.

Mughavi Sumi was the mainstay for the home team, carrying his bat in Nagaland’s first innings to finish on 62 not out. Spin king Manish Sharma claimed yet another five-wicket haul (5/22 in 16 overs) for Meghalaya while Bipin Kumar Ray bagged 2/33 in 8.5 overs. Abhishek Kumar did not add to the wicket he claimed yesterday, ending with 1/43 in 9 overs.

Taking 9/59 today would have given Meghalaya a boost but their batters were in for a bit of a shock themselves as Nagaland would require just 24.5 overs to claim all 10 wickets.

Just two Meghalaya batters got into double figures – Mrityunjay Bharali and Bipin, both of whom made 11 each. Neizekho, who like Manish is a left-arm orthodox spinner, took 6/15, while Hem bagged 4/24.

Spin was obviously the way to go on the Sovima surface and Manish (1/24) and off-spinner Bipin (2/24) tried to make inroads as Meghalaya attempted to defend their small total but, while they were able to knock off three batters, victory was not to be.

Meghalaya Cricket Association President Nababrata Bhattacharjee was present at the ground and presented the BCCI Championship Trophy to victorious Nagaland. Both Nagaland and Meghalaya, by reaching the Plate Group final, had already qualified for next season’s Elite Groups.

“Congratulations Nagaland Cricket Association for emerging as the winners of the BCCI’s U-23 Plate Group by defeating the Meghalaya Cricket Association in the final in Sovima,” Bhattacharjee said. “It was an honour and privilege to hand over the BCCI Championship Trophy to the winning team. At the end of the day, it’s a victory for cricket in all NECDC states.”

The NECDC (North East Cricket Development Committee) is a coordinating body of six regional states – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim – that became full members of the BCCI in the last decade by campaigning unitedly for full inclusion in domestic cricket. Bhattacharjee is the Convener of the NECDC.

Although they finished as runners-up, nothing can be taken away from this Meghalaya team, which won all six matches leading up to the final, backed up by the committed efforts of the support staff. Manish has been an inspiration with 45 wickets across seven matches, while fast bowler Abhishek finished just behind with 40. Both netted five five-wicket hauls each this season.

As a unit, the players performed brilliantly, with someone always ready to step up and take responsibility if other team mates were having a bad day. Their maturity and resilience have been noted by the senior team selectors and they will surely find their way into the senior squad in due course.

(Meghalaya Cricket Association photo)

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