Scenes of close-in catchers surrounding the bat on the opening day’s first hour as the spinners got the ball to turn and bounce appeared surreal.
Tamil Nadu prepared spinning track in its quest for an outright win but the game seemed to turn Uttar Pradesh’s way at the conclusion of the first day in the Group ‘B’ Ranji Trophy match at the IIT-Chemplast ground here on Saturday. At stumps, Uttar Pradesh, given the nature of the pitch, was on a creditable 279 for six after winning a crucial toss. The aggressive seventh-wicket pair of Prashant Gupta (46 batting, 86b, 4x4, 1x6) and the left-handed Ali Murtaza (49 batting, 63b, 6x4, 1x6) made it a barren last session for Tamil Nadu with an unbroken partnership of 92 in just 19.2 overs. The visitor had recovered from 187 for six.
Earlier, Uttar Pradesh captain Mohammed Kaif read the length capably and used his feet accordingly for a well-made 68 (184b, 3x4, 2x6). He displayed composure as the ball reared off the surface, played right back or went fully forward, and collected runs with the skill of an experienced campaigner.
When the ground staff swept the pitch during the intervals, plenty of dust flew off the surface and the host faces the difficult prospect of batting last on this wicket.
On a track where they needed to use their shoulder and bowl a consistent line with a quicker, flatter trajectory, the Tamil Nadu spinners erred by trying too much and overly depending on flight.
Off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan made an impression in spells but was not consistent enough. Left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas disappointed on a pitch where he could have created a truckload of trouble for the right-handers by spinning deliveries away and getting the odd one to hold its line.
Rahil Shah, whose style of bowling would have suited the surface more, could have been picked in the eleven. He is faster through the air and can hold up one end with his accuracy.
Indeed, the Tamil Nadu spinners were unable to create the pressure from both the ends and bowl in partnerships; there were too many loose deliveries.
The feisty Baba Aparajith showed some spirit with three smart catches close to the bat apart from prising out Parvinder Singh with his off-spin.
However close-in catching was another area where the host could have done better with Abhinav Mukund (twice) and R. Prasanna putting down reflex catches. Then the attack ran into serious problems in the last session as Gupta and Murtaza cut loose.
Uttar Pradesh (Ist innings): T. Srivatsava c Suresh Kumar b Srinivas 31, M. Dagar c Aparajith b Malolan 1, 3. M. Kaif c Yomahesh b Malolan 68, Umang Sharma c Aparajith b Malolan 36, Parvinder Singh c Prasanna b Aparajith 16, Prashant Gupta (batting) 46, E. Dwivedi c Aparajith b Vijay 27, A. Murtaza (batting) 49, Extras (b-1, lb-2, nb-2): 5; Total (for six wkts. in 93 overs): 279.
Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-57, 3-123, 4-152, 5-156, 6-187.
Tamil Nadu bowling: Sam 8-0-38-0, Yomahesh 5-0-12-0, Malolan 35-9-84-3, Srinivas 22-3-63-1, Suresh Kumar 13-2-45-0, Aparajith 8-2-26-1, Vijay 2-0-8-1.
Keywords: Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy