A. Joseph Antony
His nearly 13 and three quarter-hour vigil saw his team overhaul TN’s score
NAGPUR: Till the other day, Shivakant Shukla was the fringe player, in and out of the Uttar Pradesh squad. No prominent brand name or sponsor logo adorned his bat, but it was the 22-year-old who stood tall and in the way of Tamil Nadu’s entry into the final of the Ranji Trophy.
His nearly 13 and three quarter-hour vigil in the middle saw the U.P. chase from its inception until the Tamil Nadu total of 445 was overhauled by two runs, with two wickets to spare.
The epic effort at the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday not only secured the vital first innings lead in the drawn match but earned him a fourth place entry in the record books for the longest stay at the crease in first class cricket as well.
Shukla grew in confidence and composure as the contest wore on. The dangers of the morning hour were seen off successfully in partnership with Parvinder Singh, the latter dominating the strike till he departed.
From Tuesday’s nervy nineties, Parvinder didn’t take long to record his maiden century, a nudge off Balaji to backward of square bringing up the magic figure. Parvinder went into celebratory mode, a lofted golf shot over long on off C. Suresh crossing the ropes.
Balaji broke the bond between the two, prompting Parvinder to pull, only to be picked up by C. Suresh in the long leg region.
By then, their association had lasted about eight hours and produced 272 for the fourth wicket. At lunch, U.P. was sitting pretty at 348 for four.
It then lost three wickets in quick succession after the mid-day meal — those of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Piyush Chawla and Praveen Kumar — and was on 404 for seven at tea.
Aamir Khan then proved the ideal foil for Shuka and a thorn Tamil Nadu found difficult to dislodge.
The wafer-thin wicket-keeper was pouched by his counterpart but not he brought his side a quarter century away from virtual victory. Shukla showed no inclination to curb his strokeplay, his cover and square-drives straight out of the manual. The winning runs came from Prvaeen Gupta, but it was Shukla who was chaired out by his ecstatic team-mates.
“My coach wanted me to play slowly as part of our plan. I know we bat deep, but I needed to stay on,” said Shukla, an Allahabad native. Victorious skipper Mohd. Kaif described Shukla’s show as a determined demonstration of talent converted to performance.
Tamil Nadu’s tragedy was Balaji’s tremendous five for 77 getting them nowhere after an unbeaten run thus far. The southern side seemed to have worked its way into the jam, one indication of which was Mr. Extras accounting for 34 in an otherwise close contest.
TN — 1st innings: 445
UP — 1st innings: Tanmay Srivastava c Badrinath b Ganapathy 1, Shivakant Shukla (not out) 178, Suresh Raina b Balaji 39, M. Kaif b Balaji 0, Parvinder Singh c C. Suresh b Balaji 138, Bhuvneshwar Kumar c Vidyut b Balaji 11, P. Chawla c Ganapathy b Ashwin 1, Praveen Kumar c Amarnath b Ashwin 11, Aamir Khan c Karthik b Balaji 21, Praveen Gupta (not out) 13, Extras (b-18, lb-13, nb-1, w-2) 34; Total (for eight in 192.3 overs, 821 mins. declared) 447.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-53, 3-63, 4-335, 5-353, 6-354, 7-373, 8-421.
TN bowling: L. Balaji 53.3-17-114-5, C. Ganapathy 45-16-98-1, P. Amarnath 30-8-66-0, C. Suresh 15-3-55-0, R. Aswin 44-16-68-2, S. Suresh 5-0-15-0.