Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Jalaj Saxena puts Kerala in command with brilliant knock

Jalaj Saxena's brilliant knock of 143 gave Kerala a 144-run lead against Bengal on day two of the Ranji Trophy group B match at Eden Gardens.

Jalaj Saxena made a brilliant 143 to take Kerala to a commanding position against Bengal on day two of the Ranji Trophy Group B match   -  PTI

If he doesn’t get you with the ball, he will with the bat. Jalaj Saxena is in that kind of form.

With Kerala’s seamers hitting the deck on a seamer-friendly track on day one, the team didn’t require his off-spin much, though he took a wicket. At the Eden Gardens on Wednesday, he showed his skill with the bat.

Opening the innings, he made a brilliant 143 (190b, 21x4, 2x6) to take the visiting side to a commanding position on the second day of the Ranji Trophy Group B match. Fresh from his hundred and nine-wicket haul against Andhra at Thiruvananthapuram a few days ago, he gave Kerala a sizeable lead of 144 runs.

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Bengal, needing to come up with a much bigger score in the second innings, suffered a setback right before the close and finished the day at five for one. Against Kerala’s formidable pace trio, the host’s batsmen could have a tough task on Thursday.

On a helpful track and against a four-pronged pace attack featuring two internationals, batting wasn’t going to be easy, but the Kerala all-rounder came up with what was one of the finest knocks this season so far.

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Saxena made his intentions clear early on, upper-cutting Mohammed Shami - bowling the second ball of the day - over point for six. He went on to play prettier strokes square of the wicket on either side. It was a supreme exhibition of strokeplay and watchfulness as he led Kerala’s chase of Bengal’s modest total.

He received excellent support from V.A. Jagadeesh (39), with whom he added 119 for the sixth wicket. He also figured in useful partnerships with Rohan Prem for the second wicket (52) and captain Sachin Baby for the fourth (55) before he finally fell, caught behind off Ishan Porel - the seamer who came back strongly after an indifferent start to pick up four for 69. 

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Shami took three wickets, but was expensive in his 26 overs. The BCCI had initially allowed him only 15 overs per innings so that he isn't overworked ahead of the Australia tour. Bengal coach Sairaj Bahutule said Shami was fit and wanted to bowl more. “He had been allowed to bowl a few overs more than 15 if required, so it is not an issue at all,” he said.