Ali Murtaza did the simple things well. The left-arm spinner got his speed right on a turner and bowled a consistent length to rip through the Tamil Nadu line-up.
Earlier in the day, Murtaza was decisive with his footwork and shot-selection whether going back for the cut, sweeping, or giving the bowlers the charge for the lofted hits during his aggressive 106 (152b, 10x4, 3x6). Importantly, the southpaw succeeded in disrupting the length of the Tamil Nadu spinners.
Even as the modest Murtaza assumed centre-stage for Uttar Pradesh at the IIT-Chemplast ground, Tamil Nadu lost further ground on the second day of the Ranji Trophy group ‘B’ duel.
Replying to Uttar Pradesh’s 392 — the visitor recovered from 187 for six — the host was struggling at 149 for six at stumps.
It could have been worse for the home side had R. Prasanna (on 10) not been dropped at covers by Praveen Gupta off lanky paceman Ankit Rajpoot, who impressed with his bounce and cut on a dry, dusty surface.
While Murtaza bowled his stock delivery capably, he also displayed cricketing nous. The fact that he had a short-leg and no silly point for K.B. Arun Karthick might have been a ruse to get the batsman to play with more freedom on the off-side and edge one spinning away to the ‘keeper or the slip. Karthick was soon caught behind.
And the left-arm duo of Murtaza and Praveen Gupta also created the pressure with some tight overs from both the ends — this was lacking in the Tamil Nadu bowling — to force key man Dinesh Karthik to miscue a drive to short cover. Karthik does not like to be kept quiet for long.
Murataza’s flatter, quicker trajectory meant the batsmen were unable to negotiate him off the back foot and the moment he got the batsmen on to the front foot, like M. Vijay did on 42, the close-in cordon came into play.
Earlier, the Tamil Nadu batsmen once again ran into serious problems against lower-order batting. Murtaza and Prashant Gupta (57) added 120 runs for the seven wicket. Then Praveen Gupta chipped in with an unbeaten 29 to offer Murtaza further support.
Malolan Rangarajan — the off-spinner scalped four — holds some promise but both he and left-armer Aushik Srinivas need to work on their back-foot landing and balance at the point of release.