DINDIGUL: After dominating on Tuesday, Tamil Nadu had an up-and-down Wednesday. After getting bundled out for 96 in reply to Himachal Pradesh’s 158, Tamil Nadu restricted the visitors to 133/7 on Day 2 of their Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match. With Himachal leading by 195, TN have a tough third day in store at NPR College ground.
While Tamil Nadu’s bowling continued to impress, their batting frailties were again exposed. They collectively failed to click for the second time in two matches. A total of 17 wickets fell on Wednesday, but the pitch isn’t as bad as that tally suggests. There was assistance for both pacers and spinners, and Tamil Nadu’s poor shot-selection let Himachal take a 62-run first-innings lead.
Once Abhinav Mukund and Aparajith departed inside 10 overs, their inexperienced middle order was left exposed. K Mukunth, Ganga Sridhar Raju, J Kousik and M Shahrukh Khan had collectively played only 20 first-class matches between them before this game. That chink was exploited by a disciplined Himachal attack as Tamil Nadu folded before lunch itself. They spiralled from 13/0 to 43/6, and then crashed to 96.
Debutant Mukunth never looked comfortable in his 20-ball knock, and nicked a Rishi Dhawan inswinger to the first slip. Raju — playing only his second Ranji match, after two years — is known for his aggression in the shorter formats. The southpaw started confidently, but lost his wicket for 12 after trying to go for broke. Shahrukh, another promising player, was bowled off his first delivery.
"Their first spell was good, but we have to accept that we didn’t bat to our potential. We should have played out the first 10 overs without losing a wicket, but that didn’t happen. If we put our mind into it, we can definitely bat well in the second innings. I’m sure tomorrow will be a positive day," remarked Aparajith
For the large part of the 39 overs faced by Tamil Nadu, R Ashwin was the only batsman who looked comfortable, against both spin and pace. Ashwin wasn’t disconcerted by the uneven bounce. He forged a 30-run stand with Kousik before the all-rounder ran himself out.
Tamil Nadu then collapsed like a house of cards. They were eventually bowled out when Ashwin reverse-swept into the hands of close-in point, falling for 21. Vaibhav Arora was the pick of Himachal’s bowlers, and he took 3/21.
That Tamil Nadu don’t have a strong bench strength is well-known. The absence of Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay, Vijay Shankar and Baba Indrajith was felt. When temperament was the need of the hour, none barring Ashwin adhered to it. Three dropped catches in the second innings added to TN’s agony.
Elite Group A: In Ongole: Delhi 215 vs Andhra 249/6 (Bhui 70 n.o; Saini 3/77). In Thumba: Kerala 239 (Porel 3/56) vs Bengal 236/6 (Raman 110, Tiwary 51). In Patiala: Hyderabad 242 vs Punjab 167/4 (Mandeep 65 n.o, Anmolpreet 54; Siraj 3/40).
Elite Group B: In Hubballi: Uttar Pradesh 281 (Saif 80; Mithun 6/60) vs Karnataka 168/4 (Padikkal 74). In Dindigul: Himachal Pradesh 158 & 133/7 vs Tamil Nadu 96 (Vaibhav 3/21).
Elite Group C: In Cuttack: Services 271 vs Odisha 280/6 (Debasish 96 n.o, Biplab 73).
Plate: In Puducherry: Sikkim 65 & 112/9 (Trivedi 3/25, Udeshi 3/21) vs Puducherry 446/8 decl (Arun Karthik 112, Dogra 117, Fabid 53 n.o, Vinay Kumar 54; Ishwar 5/145).