Ranji Trophy: Andhra gets first innings lead over TN

At 231 for seven at stumps, Andhra was 55 in front on Saturday, the second day of the Ranji Trophy duel at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium.

B. Sumanth of Andhra in action against Tamil Nadu during the Ranji Trophy cricket match at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.   -  M. Vedhan

On a day of attrition at Chepauk, Andhra edged ahead after Tamil Nadu made inroads. But then, this is still anybody’s game.

At 231 for seven at stumps, Andhra was 55 in front on Saturday, the second day of the Ranji Trophy duel at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium.

Andhra showed greater intent while Tamil Nadu allowed the game to drift in the final session. On a pitch still holding firm, where most of the damage by both pace and spin had been inflicted with a new, harder ball, Tamil Nadu took the second new ball only in the 85th over.

DAY 1 REPORT

The industrious B. Sumanth – he is unbeaten on 72 (193b, 4x4) – batted through sessions and pain, defying cramping fingers to return to the crease after retiring.

Sumanth and a fluent Ashwin Hebbar (64, 139b, 8x4, 1x6) turned the game around. The visiting team had the rub of the green too. Hebbar was just 13 when grassed by Washington Sundar at mid-wicket; R. Ashwin was the bowler to suffer. TN coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar said, “These things happen in a match. Looking back, it was a costly lapse but you need to accept these things as part of the game.”

“It was a good pitch to bat on. But you had to be patient. We did not set any target score for ourselves. We just wanted to bat through sessions, take it as long as possible and then see what happens.” - B. Sumanth (Andhra, 72 not out)

Hebbar and Sumanth added 116 runs in 41.5 overs before the latter retired. The partnership frustrated Tamil Nadu, enabled Andhra recover from 64 for five.

Compact and assured at the crease, Hebbar drove with balance. He also sashayed down to ease left-arm spinner Rahil Shah for a six over sight-screen.

The focussed Sumanth blunted the attack and largely worked the ball around. In a rare moment of aggression, he skipped down and whipped Rahil to the mid-wicket fence. It was surprising why Rahil, predictable and lacking turn, bowled an extended spell. Off-spinner Washington Sundar was under-bowled — he sent down just seven overs before Tea. Kanitkar confessed that with senior off-spinner R. Ashwin being a part of the side, it sometimes became harder to give Washington his quota of overs.

In the morning, L. Vignesh, who rocks back in his load up and releases the sphere in a manner that is whippy, struck combining movement with a teasing off-stump line. There was bounce for him too.

In a lively spell of 6-1-13-2, he removed Andhra skipper Hanuma Vihari; B. Aparajith held a sharp catch at gully.

Tamil Nadu applied pressure with a pace-spin combination; R. Ashwin impressed in a spell of 10-7-9-2. The off-spinner put more body into his action, varied his speed, and harnessed the angles.

Ashwin sold the dummy to a fluent K.S. Bharath (32) by drawing the batsman forward with flight and then getting the ball to straighten; N. Jagadeesan effected a smart stumping.

K. Vignesh took time to find his radar but found Ricky Bhui’s edge and returned to castle Hebbar with an off-cutter soon after Tea.

There is plenty of cricket left in the contest. Kanitkar believed his team could get Andhra out quickly on Sunday, set a healthy target and then put pressure on the visiting team. “Andhra could be under pressure and things might happen then,” he said here on Saturday.

Queried about some of the decisions taken by Abhinav Mukund on the field, Kanitkar said, “The captain has to take decisions on the spot. Many times he gets it right, sometimes things might not his way. It’s how this game is. Perhaps, he would approach a similar situation differently the next time,”

Brief Scores: Tamil Nadu 176 v Andhra 231 for seven in 93 overs (B. Sumanth 72 batting, Ashwin Hebbar 64).