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Wickets fall like nine pins

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PERSEVERANCE PAYS: L. Balaji came up with a four-wicket haul. PHOTO: PTI
PERSEVERANCE PAYS: L. Balaji came up with a four-wicket haul. PHOTO: PTI

Nandakumar Marar

U.P. strikes back after a dismal batting show

NAGPUR: Zaheer Khan is an opportunist when on test. Take him out of the comfort zone, the competitive urge surfaces and cricket ceases to remain a batsman's game. Steaming in to bowl classy spells marked by control and swing, he crushed Uttar Pradesh's resistance with a haul of four for 46 on day one of the Irani Trophy.

The Ranji Trophy champion, minus the internationals, caved in against a multi-pronged Rest of India attack for 148 in the first innings at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.

Zaheer's scalps

Zaheer yorked promising batting talent, Tanmay Srivastava and trapped Jyoti Yadav and Shalabh Srivatsava leg before with inswingers.

His fourth victim was a hapless Avinash Yadav, edging behind for wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik to pull off a tumbling catch in front of slips.

U.P. went into a free fall after an early high (50 off 7.6 overs) on a track prepared to test the bowlers' patience.

The collapse later, triggered by spinner Murali Karthik and Laxmipathy Balaji (four for 29), brought out the utility of five specialist bowlers preferred by Rest. Rohit Sharma was made the 12th man.

Fightback

U.P. made up for batting failures with stunning counter-punches, dismissing Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Venugopala Rao and Dinesh Karthik in the post-tea phase to show that though regular skipper Mohammed Kaif was missing, the fighting qualities infused by him in the team was very much alive in India's champion side. Shivakant Shukla's diving stop and throw from point to run out Murali Kartik at the non-striker end would have made Kaif proud.

Praveen Kumar and Shivakant Shukla, grabbing three wickets each and buoyed by livewire fielding, reduced Rest to 131 for seven by stumps, still 17 runs behind though S. Badrinath (35 batting, 59 balls) and Balaji, yet to open account, are competent hands at the crease. U.P. has caught up and a thriller is in store if bowlers continue to call the shots.

Karthik, Balaji shine

Earlier in the morning, Karthik, grabbing the lifeline thrown in by the selectors after an encouraging show in the Challenger Trophy, got into the mood, getting deliveries to spin across top-scorer S. Shukla's (52, 87b) blade for forward short-leg fielder Badrinath to complete a sharp catch, diving low to his left.

Ravikant Shukla followed him, dismissed in the same fashion. Balaji, coming into the attack after an unimpressive show by V.R.V. Singh, struck the first blow for Rest in the 14th over, inducing Praveen Kumar to edge one behind to Karthik. He bowled to a plan and was rewarded for persistence with four wickets, then was back at the crease in the final session for damage control with the bat.

The scores: Uttar Pradesh 1st Innings: P. Kumar c D. Karthik b Balaji 42, S. Shukla c Badrinath b Karthik 52, T. Srivastava b Zaheer 1, R. Shukla c Badrinath b Karthik 9, R. Shamshad c D. Karthik b Balaji 0, J. Yadav lbw b Zaheer 0, G. Pandey lbw Balaji 18, M.A. Khan c Ojha b Balaji 6, A. Yadav c Karthik b Zaheer 0, S. Srivastava lbw Zaheer 6, A. Zaidi (not out) 0; Extras: (b-4, lb-7, nb-3) 14; Total: (in 46 overs) 148.

Fall of wickets: 1-73, 2-76, 3-110, 4-115, 5-115, 6-115, 7-128, 8-134, 9-144.

Rest of India bowling: Zaheer 15-6-46-4, V.R.V. Singh 9-1-39-0, Karthik 8-1-23-2, Balaji 14-5-29-4.

Rest of India 1st innings: W. Jaffer c S. Shukla b Praveen 45, G. Gambhir b Praveen 20, R. Uthappa c R. Shukla b Srivastava 8, V. Rao c Khan b Srivastava 0, D. Karthik c S. Shukla b Praveen 11, S. Badrinath (batting) 35, M. Karthik (run out) 5, Zaheer b Srivastava 1, L. Balaji (batting) 0; Extras: (nb-6) 6; Total: (for seven wkts. in 37 overs) 131.

Fall of wickets: 1-64, 2-74, 3-74, 4-74, 5-92, 6-108, 7-116.

Uttar Pradesh bowling: Zaidi 8-1-36-0, Srivastava 12.3-2-47-3, Praveen 10-2-27-3, Yadav 6.3-2-21-0.

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