Emotions of diametrically opposite tenor provided the soundtrack for day three of the Ranji Trophy match between Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu at a most venerable amphitheatre, the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
Sandeep Patil, chairman of the National selection committee, and Paras Mhambrey, assistant coach of Mumbai Indians here to scout for talent ahead of the IPL, were among the audience on Tuesday.
Tamil Nadu’s players were downbeat after a cacophonous day of full-throated, unsuccessful appealing and elusive half-chances.
Rajasthan, however, quietly moved within touching distance of its rival’s first-innings score of 318.
At stumps, the visitor had against its name 307 for four.
Like a well-packaged multi-starrer, Rajasthan’s script had more than one hero.
While openers Vineet Saxena (83, 263b, 348m, 7x4, 1x6) and Siddharth Saraf (63, 248b, 324m, 10x4) took centre-stage initially with a 163-run stand, the critical push came after Tea through Ashok Menaria’s razzle-dazzle.
The second session was headed the home team’s way, Rahil S. Shah’s disciplined spell (7-4-4-2) accounting for Saxena and Robin Bist.
But Menaria (62, 69b, 11x4, 2x6), scoffing at the defensive pattern, bashed the bowlers, especially the left-arm spinners. Nonchalant strikes, including a straight six and a swipe over mid-wicket, punctured the opponent’s morale.
With a calm skipper, Hrishikesh Kanitkar (38 batting, 3x4, 1x6), for company, the 23-year-old raised 93 runs in 135 balls. He was out lbw when Vijay Shankar was finally brought on in the 120th over.
Menaria later said he went for his shots. “Blocking doesn’t work for me. We’ll push for an outright win.”
Tamil Nadu coach W.V. Raman struck a glum note. “They showed good skill-execution. Menaria took his chances and they came off.”
Tamil Nadu’s methods smacked of a glaring reluctance to shift from set plans.
In the morning, skipper L. Balaji withdrew himself after merely two overs (he bowled only four more overs in the day). There appeared to be an over-reliance on spinners; Malolan Rangarajan, R. Aushik Srinivas, and Rahil were shuffled around in endless rigmarole.
The predictable gambit was counter-productive as the Saxena-Saraf pair eased itself in. There was a case for engaging the seam-bowling services of Vijay Shankar and R. Prasanna.
But there could be no denying that the batsmen showed fine cricketing-awareness. They ran vigorously and, whenever they could, condemned the ball to the fence.
Saxena had two nervy moments, on 54 and 78; first, there was a loud shout for caught behind, and then his powerful sweep was nearly consumed by K.B. Arun Karthick at short-leg.
Tamil Nadu had minor consolation minutes before lunch when Saraf’s top-edged sweep was snared at silly-point.
The scores: Tamil Nadu — 1st innings: 318.
Rajasthan — 1st innings: Siddharth Saraf c R. Prasanna b Malolan 63, Vineet Saxena c K. Dinesh Karthik b Rahil 83, Hrishikesh Kanitkar (batting) 38, Robin Bist b Rahil 3, Ashok Menaria lbw b Vijay Shankar 62, Rajesh Bishnoi (batting) 20, Extras (b-24, lb-6, nb-2, w-1, pen-5) 38; Total (for four wkts. in 134.1 overs) 307.
Fall of wickets: 1-163, 2-171, 3-177, 4-270.
Tamil Nadu bowling: L. Balaji 14-6-26-0, Rahil S. Shah 32-11-59-2, R. Aushik Srinivas 30-13-60-0, Malolan Rangarajan 48-17-103-1, B. Aparajith 1-0-8-0, Abhinav Mukund 1-0-1-0, S. Badrinath 4-0-9-0, Vijay Shankar 4.1-3-6-1.