DINDIGUL : Tuesday completely belonged to Tamil Nadu. After bowling out Himachal Pradesh for 158 on Day 1 of their Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match, they were 8/0 before bad light stopped play. Having made five changes to the side that played against Karnataka in their opener, not many would have expected Tamil Nadu to be in the driver’s seat. Apart from Dinesh Karthik and Murali Vijay, even skipper Vijay Shankar had to sit out because of a wrist niggle that got aggravated on the eve of the match.
Over the last few seasons, Tamil Nadu have witnessed key players sit out chunks of the group phase, with the team losing out on points in the process. But at NPR College ground, it was R Ashwin who ensured that the team did not fall behind, picking up 5/65. For a player of his stature, Tuesday’s highlight wasn’t his 45th first-class fifer.
It was his commitment to his state. In the last six months, Ashwin has played in Tamil Nadu Premier League, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, after finishing his national obligations. Doesn’t matter whether the ball is red or white, the jersey yellow or white, Ashwin has been keen to turn out for Tamil Nadu. That commitment and responsibility were on full display on Tuesday, especially when Tamil Nadu were forced to field a depleted side.
Introduced after 14 overs, the 33-year-old did not err in his line or length. Ashwin bowled 29 overs in a single spell, and he sent down six maidens. Even on the opening day of the Karnataka match, Ashwin had bowled 32 overs. The off-spinner was right on the money from the start. He removed opener Priyanshu Khandhuri for a 45-ball 15 off his second ball. He then dismissed Nikki Gangta and skipper Ankit Kalsi in the first session. Kalsi struggled against Ashwin, scoring only eight off the 44 balls he faced from the spinner. In no time, Himachal were 63/5 and then 76/7.
Had it not been for a 53-run stand between Mayank Dagar and Akash Vashisht, Himachal wouldn’t have reached 158. But had it not been for Ashwin, Himachal’s tail-enders would have added more runs. R Sai Kishore accounted for three wickets, while pacer K Vignesh scalped two.“It was an outstanding performance,” said skipper Baba Aparajith. “Coming from a defeat, this was the kind of performance we wanted. If Ashwin bowls 25 overs, we know he is going to get wickets.”
Elite Group A: In Ongole: Delhi 215 in 70.5 ovs (Rana 51, Lalit 50; Sasikanth 5/38 Vijaykumar 3/47) vs Andhra 16/2 in 6 ovs. In Thumba: Kerala 237/7 in 83 ovs (Samson 116, Uthappa 50) vs Bengal. In Patiala: Hyderabad 242 in 81 ovs (Himalay 68, Sumanth 79; Gurkeerat 4/34, Markande 3/65) vs Punjab. Elite Group B: In Hubballi: Uttar Pradesh 232/5 in 90 ovs (Juyal 109, Saif 56 n.o; Mithun 3/45) vs Karnataka. In Dindigul: Himachal Pradesh 158 in 71.4 ovs (Ashwin 5/65, Sai Kishore 3/22) vs Tamil Nadu 8/0 in 3 ovs. Elite Group C: Services 271 in 66.1 ovs (Nakul 53, Paliwal 58, Rahul 55; Basant 6/69) vs Odisha 43/0 in 16 ovs. Plate: In Puducherry: Sikkim 65 in 31.3 ovs (Trivedi 5/20, Vinay Kumar 4/25) vs Puducherry 262/2 in 50 ovs (Arun Karthik 105 n.o, Dogra 105 n.o).