CHENNAI : In overcast conditions with slight moisture in the wicket due to overnight rain, one expected Tamil Nadu to bowl first after calling right at the toss. Surprisingly, they opted to bat and paid the price.
The top-order failed to adapt to the conditions and caved in against some disciplined bowling by Kerala medium pacers Sandeep Warrier and Basil Thampi to slump to 81 for five. Baba Indrajith played a captain’s knock of 87 and debutant Shahrukh Khan made a hard-hitting 82 not out to help the team reach 249/6 on Day 1 of the Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match on Thursday.
Kerala had done their homework well and had star opener Abhinav Mukund trapped in front by Warrier on the second ball of the day. Dinesh Karthik, on whom the hosts were depending for a turnaround, was caught brilliantly by KB Arun Karthik in the slips off Thampi. In between, spinner Jalaj Saxena chipped in with the wicket of N Jagadeesan.
With Tamil Nadu looking at point of no return, Indrajith and Shahrukh played with lot of determination and raised 103 for the sixth wicket in 31 overs. One of the most technically correct batsmen in the side, Indrajith was assured in defence and chose the right balls to attack. Shahrukh was a bit rusty in the beginning, but looked better playing on the front foot and his attacking intent unsettled the opposition.
“It was a captain’s knock by Indrajith. I would have been happier had he continued and got a big hundred. Shahrukh’s effort under pressure was pleasing. This innings will give him confidence that he belongs to this level. He should continue and put up a big score on Friday. I am disappointed with the way the top-order played. They should have applied themselves better,’’ S Sharath, chairman of the selection committee, told Express.
Indrajith had sent a text message to Shahrukh in the morning, letting the 24-year-old know that he was going to make his debut. “I was backing myself. It was a long wait and I wanted to make best use of the opportunity. I knew the conditions well and Indrajith too was backing me. So my task became easy,’’ said the batsman.
The Vijay CC player was pulling, hooking and driving with aplomb. A powerful pull off Warrier and a lofted drive over the head of off-spinner Saxena showed his class. It also suggested he is comfortable against pace and spin.“I like playing on the front foot and punching fast bowlers to the fence. I have been backing myself to play my natural game.
Having said that, both Basil and Sandeep were challenging. The pitch will get slower on Friday and stroke-making won’t be easy. Plus they have taken the second new ball. The first hour will be crucial,” said Shahrukh.Kerala captain Sachin Baby felt it was a mixed day for his team. “We used the conditions in the morning, especially. Sandeep and Basil. We are looking at keeping them around 300.”
Elite Group A
In Rajkot: Saurashtra 288/9 (Jaydev 97; Suchith 5/104, Deshpande 3/78) vs Karnataka.
Elite Group B
In Indore: Hyderabad 124 (Himalay 69 n.o; Avesh 7/24) vs Madhya Pradesh 168/1 (Rohera 81 n.o, Patidar 51 n.o).
In New Delhi: Andhra 266/7 (Bhui 150 n.o; Bhati 5/35) vs Delhi.
In Chennai: Tamil Nadu 249/6 Indrajith 87, Shahrukh 82 n.o; Warrier 3/42) vs Kerala.
Elite Group C
In Ranchi: Jharkhand 172 (Basant 5/44, Rajesh 3/51) vs Odisha 27/3.
In Wayanad: Puducherry 418/4 (Dogra 253, Viknesh 78, Rohit 59) vs Sikkim.