Sports Reporter

Palakkad: An energetic half century by all-rounder Chandrasekhar Atram (53, 86b, 11x4, 1x6) and a stubborn 40 (181b, 257m) by Samir Khare saw Vidarbha gain a vital 55-run first innings lead against Kerala on the penultimate day of the Ranji Trophy Plate League Group `A' opener here on Saturday.

At stumps, Kerala notched up 70 for one in its second essay. Former Tamil Nadu opener Sadagopan Ramesh (49, 69b, 11x4)) and Robert Fernandez (11) were at the crease.

The visitor, 191 for five overnight, showed signs of an early collapse. Owamir Afzal (46) played a gentle away swinger early from S. Suresh to wicketkeeper C.M. Deepak. But Madusudhan Acharya (31, 90b, 3x4) and Samir warded off the threat. Trying to contain them turned out to be a major problem for Kerala.

The duo added a crucial 60 runs for the seventh wicket before Atram compounded to Kerala's woes with his timely half-century. Prasanth Chandran, Tinu Yohanan and S. Suresh worked a lot tougher to trim the Vidarbha tail but what they needed was a decent support from the fielders. And, that was seriously lacking. They dropped quite a few catches, which turned out to be costly .

Kerala must blame itself for surrendering the initiative. Instead of concentrating on an attacking field, it played to the strength of its opponent.

There was disappointment writ large on Kerala skipper, Sreekumar Nair's face. "We shouldn't have squandered the advantage. We are definitely upset. I would blame the bowlers for having let us down."

The scores: Kerala Ist innings:291.

Vidarbha Ist innings:A. Deshpande b Chandran 21, F. Fazal b Nair 70, A. Naidu (run out) 27, H. Shitoot b Suresh 5, R. Paradkar b Chandran 10, O. Afzal c Deepak b Suresh 46, S. Khare lbw b Aneesh 40, M. Acharya lbw b Suresh 31, C. Atram c & b Aneesh 53, A. Wakhare c Lal b Chandran 6, S. Singh (not out) 2. Extras (b-20, lb-4, nb-10, w-1) 35. Total (in 130.3 overs) 346.

Fall of wickets:1-44, 2-123, 3-134, 4-134, 5-160, 6-207, 7-267, 8-299, 9-308, 10-346.

Kerala bowling:Yohanan 19-1-82-0, Chandran 23-5-74-3, Suresh 27-13-30-3, Aneesh 19.3-3-49-2, Jagadeesh 8-3-24-0, Gomez 4-0-11-0, Nair 29-9-51-1.

Kerala IInd innings:V.A. Jagadeesh lbw b Singh 4, S. Ramesh (batting) 49, R. Fernandez (batting) 11. Extras (nb-6) 6. Total (for one wicket, 22 overs) 70.

Fall of wickets:1-20.

Vidarbha bowling:Singh: 8-3-18-1, Atram, 6-2-24-0, Naidu 3-0-17-0, Acharya 2-0-5-0, Shitoot 2-0-5-0.

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