Dinesh Karthik breathes defiance but to no avail
Weathering a heroic innings of different hues from Dinesh Karthik, Rajasthan has all but retained the Ranji Trophy title.
Dismissing the host for 295 here on Sunday, Rajasthan gained a massive 326-run first innings lead in the final at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. The defending champion was 21 without loss at stumps on day four.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar did not enforce the follow on and the last day's play is only a formality before the presentation ceremony begins.
A well-knit side that can execute its plans with discipline and focus, Rajasthan will be a deserving winner.
Karthik (150, 280b, 21x4, 1x6) breathed defiance but Tamil Nadu paid the price for some ordinary stroke-selection from some its other frontline batsmen.
Abhinav Mukund, S. Badrinath, Murali Vijay and Vasudevadas were all dismissed playing across the line.
The conditions for batting where harder when Tamil Nadu batted — several deliveries kept low and a few reared off the cracks that were opening up on the pitch — but greater application was expected from the reputed home line-up.
For Rajasthan, the young and wiry Rituraj Singh was the pick. The paceman moved the ball both ways from a good wrist action, consistently hit the right areas, and scalped four.
Karthik displayed both heart and technique even as wickets fell at the other end. He also showed exemplary mental and physical strength by keeping wickets for two days and two sessions — a back-breaking task in itself — and then returning soon to bat for a long period under scorching heat.
Indeed, Karthik has been on the field for all but 8.5 overs in the match so far.
He has worked on his technique this season — his initial movement in particular. Karthik's back-swing is straighter and he did bat with poise and balance; he got solidly behind the line.
Once he settled down, Karthik essayed a few stirring strokes. He crashed Rituraj through covers — not the easiest shot to play on this track, eased the paceman over wide-long for the maximum, cut, swept and reverse-swept left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh. Karthik exploded into a barrage of shots once he crossed his hundred with only the tail for company.
Rajasthan made a quick breakthrough in the morning. Vasudevadas (25) was picked up by Gajendra while attempting to whip Rituraj.
The left-handed R. Prasanna (44, 77b, 9x4) promised much driving and sweeping for boundaries.
The fifth-wicket pair had put on 76 when disaster struck the host. Karthik and Prasanna collided while attempting a sharp single and 'keeper Yaglik, collecting a Rituraj throw from mid-on, removed the bails at the striker's end.
Tamil Nadu continued to lose wickets. L. Balaji (29) offered some resistance but was adjudged leg-before to Rituraj despite a thick inside edge. The Tamil Nadu skipper gave vent to his feelings as he neared the pavilion.
J. Kaushik too put up a fight but it was only a matter of time before the innings folded after Karthik played on to paceman Sumit Mathur.
It was a valiant innings from the wicket-keeper batsman under pressure and in trying conditions.
The scores: Rajasthan — 1st innings: 621.
Tamil Nadu — 1st innings: A. Mukund lbw b Rituraj 0, M. Vijay c Yadav b Rituraj 15, S. Badrinath lbw b Pankaj 6, D. Karthik b Mathur 150, Vasudevadas c Gajendra b Rituraj 25, R. Prasanna (run out) 44, S. Gupta st. Yagnik b Gajendra 6, V. Yomahesh lbw b Pankaj 0, L. Balaji lbw b Rituraj 29, J. Kaushik c Pankaj b Mathur 6, Aushik Srinivas (not out) 2; Extras (b-3, lb-8, w-1): 12, Total (in 102.4 overs): 295.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-12, 3-24, 4-71, 5-147, 6-164, 7-167, 8-227, 9-292.
Rajasthan bowling: Pankaj 25-7-58-2, Rituraj 26-5-76-4, Mathur 25.4-8-53-2, Gajendra 26-5-97-1.
Rajasthan — 1st innings: A. Chopra (batting) 10, V. Saxena (batting) 10, Extras (nb-1): 1; Total (for no loss in seven overs): 21.
Tamil Nadu bowling: Kaushik 3-1-12-0, Yomahesh 3-1-8-0, Srinivas 1-0-1-0.
Keywords: Ranji Trophy final