Kerala top-order disappoints

KOCHI, NOV. 15. It was indeed frustrating to witness the Kerala top-order batsmen, despite coming up with some hard work to play themselves in, throw away their wickets rather carelessly. But, their useful contributions nevertheless did come in handy for the home team at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Wednesday.

Having posted an impressive 266 for six by close on the opening day of its South Zone Ranji Trophy league match against Goa, Kerala does also seem to be on course of achieving its objective. Though, it may not be able to afford the same mistakes that its batsmen committed today; of gifting away their wickets when well- settled and in the process also piling up pressure on their own side which soon after lunch was reduced to a precarious 134 for five from a healthy score of 123 for two at the interval.

On a wicket which played true and fair all through the day, but for the odd turn extracted by the slower bowlers particularly when they showed the courage to flight the ball in, Kerala's cause would have been totally lost but for the timely 80-run partnership which was shared by Sunil Oasis and D. Sreekumar Nair. The latter, who found a place in the playing eleven in place of M.Suresh Kumar, then was also associated with an unbroken 52-run stand with his skipper, K.N.Ananthapadmanabhan, before the stumps were drawn for the day.

It did suprise many when the Goan skipper, Vivek Kolambkar, drafted to deputise for Pravin Amre - who has failed to make it here for unknown reasons - preferred to insert the opposition in possibly tempted to exploit the green top and the morning conditions. However, the ploy seemed to have backfired as the Kerala openers Varun Girilal and M.P.Sorab showed the required fortitude to cautiously play out the opening attack of Avinash Aware and Narayan Kambli.

The duo, thereafter, was to turn aggressive as time wore on and help Kerala to a good start. But once it looked that the two were all set to prosper, Sorab (38) and Girilal (26) - after sharing a 69-run alliance, were to depart in quick succession. This temporary setback was overcome by Kerala through in-form Ajay N. Kudua and Renjith Menon, who helped themselves to a quickfire half-century association being severe on both Sayyad Khalid and Nitin Kalekar, the two spinners who had craftily led Varun and Sorab to doom.

Aware, brought in for his third spell, then was well- rewarded for his tidy line and length attack focussed just on the off- stump as Menon (28), Kudua (27) and Ramprakash were caught themselves in moments of indecision. The Goans were on cloud nine for the next one hour before Oasis and Sreekumar settled to put their side back into contention. Oasis (47), when on 26, also got past Ramprakash to become the leading scorer for Kerala in the championship. His departure suggested that the stage was being set for another collapse but Ananthapadmanabhan (27 batting) in the able company of his younger colleauge Sreekumar (45 batting) was successful in seeing to it that the rival bowlers were checked from gaining any further rewards.

The scores:

Kerala - 1st innings: Varun Girilal c Kambli b Kalekar 26; M.P.Sorab c Jabbar b Khalid 38; Renjith Menon c Khalid b Aware 28; Ajay N.Kudua c Jabbar b Aware 27; Sunil Oasis lbw b Khalid 47; B.Ramprakash c Kolambkar b Aware 0; D.Sreekumar Nair (batting) 45; K.N.Ananthapadmanabhan (batting 27; Extras (b-5, lb-6, w-1, nb-16) 28. Total (for six wickets in 90 overs) 266.

Fall of wickets: 1/69, 2/73, 3/125, 4/132, 5/134, 6/214.

Goa bowling: Aware: 23-5-51-3; Kambli: 12-3-30-0; Barde: 5-0-18- 0; Khalid: 9-2-39-2; Kalekar: 12-4-51-1; Medappa: 20-4-51-0; Rane: 9-1-15-0.