Chennai: Some would term it boring; a few would call it an intriguing day of cricket at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday. At the end of day two, neither Rajasthan nor Tamil Nadu got a clear edge in their Ranji Trophy match.
In pursuit of Tamil Nadu’s 318, Rajasthan crawled their way to 89 without loss in 47 overs with openers Vineet Saxena (41*, 137balls, 4x4s, 1x6s) and Siddharth Saraf (43*, 145balls, 7x4s) holding fort.
If runs flowed freely from the blades of South African batsmen at the Wanderers on Sunday, they were precious at Chepauk the next day. On dissecting the day, in which only 176 runs were scored in 91 overs with the loss of five Tamil Nadu wickets, batsmen from both sides were only intent on not losing their wickets.
Scoring runs at a fast clip, it appeared, took a backseat. “We wanted to grind our way on a slow, low turning track,” were the words of key batsmen from both the teams — Saxena and R. Prasanna.
The session post-tea had a few anxious moments for the Rajasthan openers when the close-in fielders of Tamil Nadu “ooed and ahhed” on a numerous occasions when the ball kissed the batsmen’s gloves or struck the pads when spinners were operating.
The hosts missed a golden opportunity when they had a chance to run Saraf out. R. Aushik Srinivas, the bowler, failed to hit the stumps after gathering the throw from Vijay Shankar at point.
Due credit must be given to the right-handed Saxena, who attacked offie R. Malolan in an over for a four and a six, and southpaw Saraf for the composure and technique they showcased against the spin trio — Malolan, Aushik and Rahil S. Shah.
Malolan kept attacking with a ring of fielders on the off-side for Saraf while Aushik and Rahil were bowling a flatter trajectory on the stumps rather than giving some air.
It was pacer L. Balaji who looked like giving a breakthrough. His movement off the track coupled with uneven bounce — one catching the gloves of Saxena and other striking Saraf on the head — sowed some doubt on the minds of the opening batsmen.
Resuming the day with two established batsmen - Prasanna and Vijay Shankar — at the crease, TN failed to drive home the advantage they had gained after the first day. Pacer Pankaj Singh celebrated his second consecutive five-for by dismissing Vijay (60) lbw with a delivery that skidded low in the seventh over of the day.
If at all one had to describe some action on a dull day, it would be the approach of all-rounder Malolan in tackling Pankaj which didn’t go down well with skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar. With his half-spiked shoes, Malolan stood almost a foot outside his crease and then charged the bowler straight down the pitch only to defend.
It forced Kanitkar to have a chat with the umpires and Malolan was forced to wear a pair of studs but there wasn’t any change in his methods. It took a ripsnorter of a bouncer from Pankaj that struck Malolan’s helmet to change the TN batsman’s tactics of planting his foot towards the ball.
Realising that the Malolan-Prasanna combination had started to forge another partnership of substance, Kanitkar decided to take the new cherry in the 101st over.
The surprise move to use left-arm spinner Arishta Singhavi, who looked pedestrian on day one, as Pankaj’s new-ball partner paid Rajasthan immediate dividends.
The spinner got rid of Prasanna (73, 178b, 295m, 10x4s), caught by Saxena at slip. From 268 for seven, it was left to Malolan (39, 135balls, 1x4s, 2x6s) to ensure his team crossed the 300-run mark and he did so with the help of the tail-enders.
SCOREBOARD: Tamil Nadu (1st innings): K.B. Arun Karthick c Chetan Bist b Pankaj 4, Abhinav Mukund lbw b Powar 26, S. Badrinath b Pankaj 50, B. Aparajith c Chetan Bist b Pankaj 8, K. Dinesh Karthik lbw b Pankaj 0, R. Prasanna c Vineet b Singhavi 73, Vijay Shankar lbw Pankaj 60, R. Malolan st Bist b Singhavi 39, L. Balaji lbw Powar 15, Rahil S. Shah lbw Singhavi 0, R. Aushik Srinivas 0 (not out).
Extras: (b18, lb12, nb 12, w1) 43. Total (in 123.1 overs): 318.
FoW: 1-7, 2-82, 3-97, 4-97, 5-99, 6-240, 7-268, 8-306, 9-311
Bowling: Pankaj Singh 26-10-54-5, Aniket Choudhary 22-5-47-0, Arishta Singhavi 31.1-7-83-3, Ramesh Powar 40-7-95-2, Ashok Menaria 4-1-9-0.
Rajasthan (1st innings): Siddharth Saraf 43 (batting), Vineet Saxena (batting). Extras: (b3, lb1, w1) 5. Total (for no loss in 47 overs) 89.
Bowling: Balaji 8-4-9-0 Rahil S. Shah 8-2-19-0 Aushik Srinivas 17-8-21-0, Malolan 12-4-27-0, Aparajith 1-0-8-0, Mukund 1-0-1-0.