Prashant Gupta oozes class. The lanky batsman from Kanpur, belonging to the old school of treating the ball on merit, played a refreshing role on Friday to keep the contest alive with his splendid application, with an unbeaten half-century.
He did not mind playing the second fiddle to Mukul Dagar as Uttar Pradesh strove to tame the Tamil Nadu attack on the second day of the Ranji Trophy match here.
Tamil Nadu, resuming at 258 for seven, lasted 17 overs this morning, adding 39 runs. Uttar Pradesh, thanks to Dagar and Gupta, finished the day at 171 for five, 126 runs in arrears.
Overnight 54, Aswin Crist was the first to fall after having added 92 runs for the eighth wicket with R. Prasanna in a partnership that could well prove the decisive factor if Tamil Nadu is to gain the first innings lead or force a win on a pitch that threatens to break on the final day.
The bowlers’ footmarks on either end will certainly add to the home team’s woes when batting the second time.
The conditions suited both the teams this day. The batsmen had to concentrate and the bowlers thrived on the pace and bounce.
There was turn too, even if slow. Uttar Pradesh opener Tanmay Srivastava played the wrong line and gave Tamil Nadu its first wicket.
It was now for Mohammad Kaif to take charge. He played two stunning cover drives and then perished attempting the third, an unwise shot from an experienced player. It took a brilliant catch by M. Vijay to send back Kaif.
Tamil Nadu sensed its chance, but ran into a spirited Dagar and a determined Gupta.
A left-hander with a penchant to attack, Dagar can be a delight to watch, especially when playing the ball off his legs.
He survived a leg-before appeal off left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas, but then fell to the same bowler, foxed by the change of pace, caught by Balaji at mid-off.
Dagar (138b, 11x4) had shown lapses in concentration after crossing his half-century and his impetuosity cost him and the team dear.
Uttar Pradesh then lost the reliable Parvindar Singh to the persistent Aushik, who looked quite a potent bowler. A lot of credit should go to Gupta for lifting the benchmark of quality batting on an increasingly challenging pitch.
His assured front foot drive, the long stride so prominent, was a pleasant sight.
He holds Uttar Pradesh’s hopes of taking the first innings lead. His 55 (158b, 5x4, 1x6) was the highlight of the day.
The scores: Tamil Nadu — 1st innings: Abhinav Mukund lbw b R.P. Singh 0, M. Vijay b Mishra 0, S. Badrinath c Kaif b R.P. Singh 4, B. Aparajith c Dwivedi b Imtiaz 60, Dinesh Karthik c Alam b Mishra 5, R. Prasanna b Imtiaz 118, Malolan Rangarajan c Dwivedi b Alam 14, L. Balaji b Imtiaz 7, A. Aswin Crist c Alam b Imtiaz 58, R. Aushik Srinivas (not out) 11, Sunil Sam b R.P. Singh 5; Extras (b-2, lb-9, nb-2, w-2): 15; Total (in 107 overs): 297.
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-4, 3-14, 4-20, 5-127, 6-154, 7-179, 8-271, 9-288.
Uttar Pradesh bowling: R.P. Singh 25-6-64-3, Imtiaz Ahmed 29-7-79-4, Amit Mishra 23-9-41-2, Prashant Gupta 2-1-2-0, Piyush Chawla 20-2-80-0, Arish Alam 8-2-20-1.
Uttar Pradesh — 1st innings: Mukul Dagar c Balaji b Aushik 69, Tanmay Srivastava b Sam 2, Mohammad Kaif c Vijay b Balaji 13, Prashant Gupta (batting) 55, Parvindar Singh b Aushik 0, Arish Alam c Karthik b Rangarajan 23, Eklavya Dwivedi (batting) 5; Extras (nb-4): 4; Total (for five wkts. in 68 overs): 171.
Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-40, 3-114, 4-123, 5-162.
Tamil Nadu bowling: Sunil Sam 13-3-50-1, L. Balaji 12-3-30-1, Crist 12-2-29-0, Rangarajan 11-2-28-1, Aushik 19-8-33-2, Abhinav 1-0-1-0.