Among the more annoying things for a sports fan is watching a game — shaping to be a delicious skirmish — dismantled by nature’s whims. The murky skies that have assumed a threatening posture over the last few days eventually yielded rain on Saturday.
Only the first session of play was possible on day two of the Ranji Trophy Group B encounter between Tamil Nadu and Baroda. Tamil Nadu had, by then, progressed to 101 for three by lunch, flaunting a brand of proactive, but composed batsmanship.
A spitting rain delayed the start of the second session by 20 minutes. As the players took the field, the visiting skipper Yusuf Pathan wanted to deploy his fast bowlers. The umpires deemed the light to be insufficient if the quicks were to be bowling and everyone was back in the dressing room.
More rain and poor light forced an early closure, and that meant the home side was still 61 runs behind Baroda’s first-innings score.
In the morning, openers Abhinav Mukund and K.B. Arun Karthick engaged with the seamers patiently. But smartly, they whirred into activity when spin was introduced in the 10th over.
Arun’s swipe over mid-wicket off Yusuf was the first indication that there wasn’t going to be any servile response. Abhinav whacked left-armer Ketul Patel for a six and a four in the very next over, forcing Yusuf to replace him with the other left-armer Bhargav Bhatt.
There were hardly any strokes on the off-side, and sweeps and glides were brought into play to counteract the spinners. Baroda, nevertheless, didn’t have to wait too long for a breakthrough as Arun was caught in front by Bhatt’s arm-ball.
By then, 42 runs, the match’s highest partnership thus far, had been raised.
A little later, Yusuf, after a fallow first spell, terminated Abhinav with the fifth ball of his new spell. An absolute peach, the ball pitched on middle before changing course to hit the off-stump.
There was some amusement as well as confusion, particularly among Baroda’s fielders, when the identical twins B. Indrajith and B. Aparajith, were at the crease together. But the wondrousness would die a quick death when Yusuf’s sharp turn snuffed out Aparajith.
Tamil Nadu endured a lull at this point, and until Indrajith had creamed Bhatt for two fours, 81 balls had elapsed without a boundary. Dinesh Karthik outclassed Yusuf in a tussle marked by loud appeals and cavalier stroke-making.
As Karthik swivelled to send a delivery beyond the square-leg fence, Indrajith’s tentativeness, too, had vanished as he unlocked his range of backfoot strokes.
The scores: Baroda — 1st innings: 162.
Tamil Nadu — 1st innings: K.B. Arun Karthick lbw b Bhatt 23, Abhinav Mukund b Yusuf 29, B. Indrajith (batting) 23, B. Aparajith lbw b Yusuf 2, K. Dinesh Karthik (batting) 23; Extras (w-1): 1; Total (for three wkts. in 42 overs): 101.
Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-57, 3-67.
Baroda bowling: Murtuja Vahora 5-2-7-0, Hardik Pandya 4-3-5-0, Ketul Patel 8-1-26-0, Yusuf Pathan 14-1-39-2, Bhargav Bhatt 11-4-24-1.