It’s been a see-saw battle so far at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here, but Andhra has pulled ahead of Rajasthan by dominating key phases of play. For the second day in a row, K. V. Sasikanth had a decisive impact, scoring a pugnacious 54 (97b, 8x4) and dismissing a top-order batsman before the close of play.
By stumps, Rajasthan was truly staring at an uphill task ahead in the rest of the contest; two down for 23, it needs another 83 runs to make the visiting side bat again.
Seamers were on top once again in helpful conditions in the morning, but opener C. R. Gnaneshwar (73, 175b, 10x4, 1x6) and middle-order batsman K. S. Bharat (52, 100b, 8x4, 1x6) did not throw in the towel. They absorbed the pressure, rode their luck – there were two dropped catches - and helped their team gain the decisive edge. There were numerous plays and misses from both batsmen and half-shouts from the crowd of fielders surrounding them for deliveries that nearly resulted in a dismissal, but Rajasthan couldn’t find the breakthrough. It took a part-time spinner – Yash Kothari – to end the partnership (worth 95 runs) at the end of the session.
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In the afternoon, when Rajasthan had bounced back by dismissing five in relatively quick time, another pair frustrated the side. Sasikanth found an able ally in C. V. Stephen – the two caused the most damage with the ball on Day One – and the two put on 55 runs for the ninth wicket. Rajasthan’s potent seamers were negotiated well and by the time they were dismissed, by left-arm spinner Mahipal Lomror, Andhra had a lead of 106 runs.
Sasikanth played his drives, cuts and pulls. Among the highlights was a sweet drive through extra-cover off Rituraj Singh, who ended with four wickets, for a boundary in the 80th over. Equally crisp was his cut through backward point off the same bowler in the 88th.
Given an hour left in the final session, Rajasthan’s openers had a tricky period to survive. They were able to do so for nine overs, before Sasikanth trapped Chetan Bist lbw. Nightwatchman Tanveer-ul-Haq was dismissed soon after so by the end of the day Andhra was well and truly ascendant.