Wickets are a precious commodity at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. Only two have fallen in two days on a surface largely bereft of bounce. The match, so far, has been an ordinary advertisement for a Ranji Trophy final.
Rajasthan stuck to its game-plan of batting Tamil Nadu out of the match and its batsmen displayed patience and application if not enterprise. Only 183 runs were scored on the second day with the visitors finishing at 404 for two.
Displaying concentration and fitness in energy-sapping heat, opener Vineet Saxena progressed to an unbeaten 207 (555b, 25x4, 1x6). He added only 87 to his overnight score of 120.
On a pitch such as this, the Tamil Nadu attack did not possess two qualities that can achieve breakthroughs — air speed and deception in flight.
The numbers tell the story. Rajasthan made 51 in the first session, 90 in the second and only 42 in the third. The side seeks to bat most part of day three, make around 600 and then hope for the pitch to offer more and the host to cave in mentally after long hours of fielding.
It might not be easy for Tamil Nadu when it bats. The odd delivery has turned and a few have kept low. Will this surface — it has left the bowlers frustrated so far — play tricks on the fourth and fifth days?
Good news for TN
There was some good news though for Tamil Nadu when Abhinav Mukund and Vasudeva Das recovered swiftly from their fitness concerns. Both fielded on Friday.
Tamil Nadu struck before lunch when Aakash Chopra (94, 307b, 9x4) played across a quicker delivery from left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas to be trapped leg-before.
The ball kept a shade low.
The opening pair had put on 236 runs in 104.1 overs.
However, Saxena held firm for Rajasthan. Skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar, after surviving a few anxious moments early on against Srinivas, settled down to score 67 (146b, 7x4).
The batting side built another partnership. In a rare moment of aggression, Saxena jumped out to strike off-spinner Sunny Gupta over mid-wicket for a six but was soon back to grinding the attack.
In the context of the day's play, the stroke was ironical.
The second session was the most entertaining phase — on a comparative scale — of the day and Kanitkar did essay a couple of productive punches off the back foot.
The pair put on 126 before Gupta had Kanitkar nicking one spinning away from him to Karthik. It was a typical off-spinner's dismissal against a southpaw.
Robin Bist, who went past 900 runs in the Ranji Trophy this season during the innings, struggled to find his touch on a pitch where the ball was not coming on to the bat. Yet, a straight-drive off Balaji underlined his promise.
Srinivas sent down tiring spells with a measure of control if not imagination. He tends to bowl a little wide of the crease for a left-armer and lacks an arm-ball. Gupta was given a longer bowl but has limitations.
The three medium pacers could at best be disciplined on this track but Tamil Nadu could have tried a few set pieces.
For instance, on a sluggish surface where it was difficult to drive, the pacemen could have bowled cutters at a reduced pace with a short cover and a short mid-wicket in place. These positions can become catching ones on a wicket like this.
Rajasthan — 1st innings: V. Saxena (batting) 207, A. Chopra lbw b Srinivas 94, H. Kanitkar c Karthik b Gupta 67, R. Bist (batting) 16, Extras (b-9, lb-6, nb-3, w-2) 20. Total (for two wickets in 180 overs) 404.
Fall of wickets: 1-236, 2-362.
Tamil Nadu bowling: Balaji 24-9-58-0, Kaushik 33-12-44-0, Yomahesh 26-6-71-0, Srinivas 61-23-105-1, Gupta 30-5-82-1, Mukund 2-0-6-0 Vasudeva Das 1-0-5-0, Vijay 3-0-18-0.
Keywords: Ranji Trophy