A. Joseph Antony
CRICKET / The TN openers put on 167 with the former scoring a flawless century
NAGPUR: Tamil Nadu took its time, but cruised to a comfortable 296 for two against Uttar Pradesh in their Ranji Trophy semifinal cricket match at the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium here on Sunday.
Skipper Dinesh Karthik wouldn’t have blinked twice after he called right and chose to bat. The opening pair of Abhinav Mukund and M. Vijay saw their side well and truly launched on a pitch that played true to its shirtfront patent, posing not a problem almost all through the day.
Abhinav’s flawless century (100, 231 mins, 175 balls, 16x4) was fair reward for his nearly four-hour stay. With the flair that comes naturally to left-handers, the southpaw who turns 19 on Tuesday (January 6) — he shares his birthday with Kapil Dev — set out by coaxing an outgoing Praveen Kumar delivery towards the third-man boundary.
Straight and cover drives followed off the same bowler, as did swivelled pulls off Imtiyaz Ahmed, racing to the ropes, backward of square and to mid-wicket. He caned Piyush Chawla through the covers; the leg-spinner came in for some rough treatment especially in his second spell that conceded 31 runs.
When Abhinav had notched up his eighth boundary, cracking Bhuvneshwar to long-off, Vijay had only three to his credit, but the latter was a picture of poise, shouldering arms thrice in a Praveen Kumar over. Presently, he opened up too, greeting Chawla with a straight-driven four. The partnership prospered as the twosome took their team to three figures in a minute short of two hours, Mukund having posted his half-century by then.
With the frontline bowlers failing to make an impression, it took Parvinder Singh, last to be introduced into a six-pronged attack, to separate the seemingly well-set openers, in the post-lunch session. Vijay was first to perish, his miscued drive picked up by Praveen at mid-off. His carefully crafted 69 contained eight boundaries. About half an hour later and before tea was taken, Abhinav departed, snapped up by stumper Aamir Khan off Bhuvneshwar.
S. Badrinath had the fireworks going soon enough, finding the fence through a packed off-side. In the company of captain Dinesh Karthik, he saw the day through without further damage, reaching his 50 in the process with a six into the sight-screen off Praveen Gupta.
Abhinav said he was thrilled with his century in a crucial semifinal. On his association with Vijay, he said their chemistry clicked, their mid-pitch chats getting shorter as their individual essays flourished. In comparison to his triple-century at Nasik on an absolutely flat strip, Abhinav said the ball moved more here. This knock was special because it came against a strong U.P. attack, he said.
Tamil Nadu — 1st innings: Abhinav Mukund c Aamir Khan b Bhuvneshwar 100, Murali Vijay c Praveen b Parvinder 69, S. Badrinath (batting) 59, Dinesh Karthik (batting) 58, Extras (b-5, lb-1, w-4) 10; Total (for two wkts. in 91 overs) 296.
Fall of wickets: 1-167 (M. Vijay), 2-182 (A. Mukund).
Uttar Pradesh bowling: Praveen Kumar 24-4-70-0, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 18-5-47-1, Imtiyaz Ahmed 12-1-48-0, Piyush Chawla 13-2-57-0, Praveen Gupta 11-3-47-0, Parvinder Singh 13-5-21-1.