Assam’s last wicket pair of Rajdeep Das and A. Konwar helped the side snatch a crucial first innings lead against Kerala in the Ranji Trophy Group C match at the KCA stadium on Monday.

The host, after conceding a 22-run first innings lead, crawled to 168 for one at stumps on the penultimate day with V.A. Jagadeesh (92 not out) and Abhishek Hegde (74 not out) figuring in an unfinished century stand for the second wicket.

Raiphy Vincent Gomez was promoted as opener but he lasted just three balls, edging a wide delivery from Abu Nechim to wicketkeeper Rajdeep Das.

Jageesh and Abhishek then grafted and were over-cautious against a steady but not a threatening attack. Both went into a shell until the spinners came on.

Jagadeesh smote Konwar for a huge six over long-on and then cut Syed Mohammed behind square to progress to his half-century. Abhishek too looked assured against the spinners and played a few forcing shots on both sides of the wicket. Compared to the boredom in the afternoon, the morning session was full of drama with the last wicket pair of Rajdeep and Konwar holding its nerves under pressure. Kerala captain Sony Cheruvathur took two wickets in an over to reduce Assam to 261 for nine. But wicketkeeper-batsmen Rajdeep hit Anthaf over midwicket for a boundary to give Assam the lead.

Such excitement looked remote in the first hour when overnight batsmen Dheeraj Jadhav and Terjinder Singh looked in complete control of the proceedings. Terjinder twice lofted K.R. Sreejith for huge sixes and Dheeraj smote Rohan Prem for a six.

However, Dheeraj’s anxiety to reach his century resulted in his dismissal on 98. He steered part time medium-pacer Jagadeesh through the gully and set off for a run but Sanju made a diving stop and was quick to release the ball to wicketkeeper Kodoth who broke the stumps.

At 211 for five, Assam was the favourite to take the lead. But, the fortuitous wicket pumped up the Kerala bowlers and Anthaf produced a lifter, forcing Terjinder (92) to edge to the wicketkeeper.

Raiphy then won a leg-before appeal against Syed Mohammed and Sony took two wickets in three balls to enliven the contest. But, Rajdeep kept his cool under pressure as Assam took the lead.

The scores:

Kerala — 1st innings: 264.

Assam — 1st innings: Pallab Das c Abhishek b Sony Cheruvathur 0, Dheeraj Jadhav (run out) 98, Amit Sinha c Akshay b Anthaf 8, Hokaito Zhimomi lbw b Anthaf 4, Gokul Sharma (run out) 7, Terjinder c Akshay b Anthaf 92, Syed Mohammed lbw b Raiphi 15, Rajdeep Das c Fernandez b Anish 36, Abu Nechim c Rohan Prem b Sony Cheruvathur 4, Arup Das st. Akshay b Sony Cheruvathur 0, A. Konwar (not out) 4; Extras (b-10, lb-3, w-2): 15; Total (in 97.3 overs): 286.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-29, 3-35, 4-56, 5-211, 6-238, 7-254, 8-261, 9-261.

Kerala bowling: Sony Cheruvathur 22-6-45-3, Raiphi 5-1-15-1, Anthaf 22-3-63-3, Anish 11.3-3-39-1, Rohan Prem 10-2-36-0, Sreejith 25-5-71-0, Jagadeesh 2-1-4-0.

Kerala — 2nd innings: Raiphi Vincent Gomez c Rajdeep b Abu Nechim 0, Abhishek Hegde (batting) 74, V.A. Jagadeesh (batting) 92; Extras (lb-1, w-1): 2; Total (for one wkt. in 51 overs): 168.

Fall of wicket: 1-0.

Assam bowling: Abu Nechim 10-4-21-1, Arup 10-2-22-0, Pallab 3-0-10-0, Syed Mohammed 10-0-34-0, Konwar 10-0-48-0, Gokul 7-1-24-0, Terjinder 1-0-9-0.

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