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    KOCHI: Sanju Samson welcomed his selection to the Indian ODI squad for the South Africa series with a breezy unbeaten 35 to steer Kerala to a six-wicket win over Pondicherry and keep his team’s knockout qualification prospects alive in the Vijay Hazare one-day tournament at Alur Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
    Kerala and Mumbai are on 20 points from six matches though the latter are placed on top of Group ‘A’ on better net run rate.A big win on Tuesday against Railways in their final group game should keep Kerala in the hunt for a knockout berth.
    Akhil Scaria and Sijomon Joseph claimed three wickets each as Kerala bundled out Pondicherry for 116. Sanju’s knock ensured that Kerala overhauled the target in 19.5 overs losing six wickets.
    Kerala bowlers backed skipper Sanju’s decision to bowl as Akhin removed Pondicherry opener KB Arun Karthik for a duck. Thereafter, they lost wickets at regular intervals as Akhil and Sijomon were joined by pacer Basil Thampi in slicing through the Pondicherry middle-order.
    Only skipper Fabid Ahmed managed to offer any resistance with a solid 44. Akhil (3/15), Sijomon (3/2) and Basil (2/39) were the tormentors for Pondicherry.
    Chasing a paltry target, Kerala lost opener Mohammed Azharuddeen (8) early. Rohan Kunnummal (23) and Sachin Baby (25*) were associated in a brief little partnership for the second wicket before the former perished.
    Vishnu Vinod struck two fours and a six in an entertaining 21-ball 22 while Abdul Bazith made 5 before Sanju took over.
    The Kerala captain faced just 13 balls but hit four fours and three sixes to take Kerala over the line with plenty to spare.
    Brief scores: Pondicherry 116 all out in 32.2 overs (Fabid Ahmed 44, Akhil Scaria 3/15, Sijomon Joseph 3/2, Basil Thampi 2/39) lost to Kerala 121/4 in 19.5 overs (Sanju Samson 35*, Sachin Baby 25*, Rohan Kunnummal 23)





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