Enthusiastic seam bowling and a lively pitch helped host Odisha reduce star-studded Tamil Nadu to 66 for two on the truncated first day of their four-day opening Group-B Ranji league match here at DRIEMS Stadium on Friday.
Put into bat by Odisha skipper Natraj Behera, last year’s runners-up Tamil Nadu struggled on the grassy pitch, losing the wickets of Test discards Murali Vijay and Subramaniam Badrinath for 15 and 11 respectively. Former Test opener Abhinav Mukund and Baba Aparajith were unbeaten on 21 and three respectively when stumps were drawn for the day. The match started after lunch due to wet ground condition and umpires called off play three overs after tea due to insufficient light, thus restricting the day’s play to only 31 overs. BCCI’s new rule, making three mm grass on the wicket a must in Ranji Trophy matches, also made batting a tough task against the home pace attack, comprising Basant Mohanty, Alok Mangaraj and Deepak Behera.
Young medium-pacer Mangaraj gave Odisha the breakthrough when he had Vijay caught brilliantly by Rakesh Mohanty in the third slip. Dependable No 3 batsman Badrinath too struggled before being comprehensively castled by a gem of an inswining delivery from Mohanty. The home side squandered two opportunities to dismiss Mukund, who first survived run out chance when wicketkeeper Haladhar Das failed to collect a throw by Mangaraj from square-leg area. The left-hander got another life when he flashed hard between the outstretched hands of slip fielder Rakesh Mohanty, who could not latch on to it. In the day’s play, Tamil Nadu batsmen could hit only five boundaries, out of which only two were convincing. Badrinath drove Mohanty to long-off fence with flair and Mukund hooked Mangaraj to the fine-leg with lightening reflex.
However, Odisha could not exploit the favourable pitch in the first hour of the day’s play. Had Mohanty and Mangaraj bowled on the right areas and controlled the swing, the visitors would have been in a more critical position. But the bowlers were an improved lot later in the day, showing accuracy and controlling the swing.