Going by his own words, Sheldon Jackson didn’t deserve a place in the XI when Saurashtra locked horns with Maharashtra in the final of Vijay Hazare Trophy in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Before the summit clash, Jackson had just one half-century under his belt in the last 10 matches of the tournament, an unbeaten 56 against Himachal Pradesh in the group stage match while chasing a paltry 130. Saurashtra kept on backing their most prolific run-scorer and he delivered when it mattered most.
Jackson produced a match-winning 133 not out off 136 deliveries, helping Saurashtra chase the 249-run target and seal a five-wicket win in the most important match of the competition.
“I’m grateful that I came back to form at the right time. Credit to the entire team and management for backing me, because I was failing in all tournaments and didn’t actually deserve to get a chance today. So credit to those who backed me. Yes, experience counts, but what’s the point if you aren’t scoring runs,” Jackson told the host broadcaster after winning the Player of the Match award.
As soon as Jackson flicked a Rajvardhan Hangargekar delivery to the mid-wicket region to pick up two runs and complete his ninth Vijay Hazare Trophy century (only four players have more tons in VHT), he looked up to the sky. It’s been exactly one month since Jackson lost his father. Though the wicketkeeper-batter didn’t say it, one could sense that the century was for his father. It was for everyone who backed him at his lowest.
Jackson’s knock had it all. It was cleverly calculated after a splendid 125-run opening stand with Harvik Desai. The 15th over against Satyajeet Bachhav was decisive, where he went hammer and tongs, scoring 17 runs off it. The next phase consisted of singles and twos with an occasional boundary or two.
Jackson again got into the aggressive act against Bachhav in the 37th over, hammering 13 runs and releasing the pressure Maharashtra bowlers had managed to create. Chirag Jani chipped in with a crucial unbeaten 30 after scalping three with the ball, a hat-trick actually.
But those who had witnessed the crafty knock by Jackson would doff their caps and say, he was the player of the day for Saurashtra. Indeed, he was the Player of the Match. After all, he had saved the best for the last as Saurashtra continued their meteoric rise in the domestic circuit.