On a cold morning, which began foggily, it looked as if Gujarat would collapse for the second time in as many innings. At 33 for four, the 88 it made against Madhya Pradesh didn’t look far away.
But Het Patel, and then, Karan Patel took their side not merely to safety, but to an excellent position before the stumps were drawn on the opening day against Kerala in the Ranji Trophy Group A match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
Het, the wicketkeeper who is playing only his second First Class game, is still there, unbeaten on 146 (211b, 22x4, 1x6).
It was his sixth-wicket stand with Karan 120 (166b, 18x4, 1x6) that frustrated Kerala, which had begun so promisingly after winning the toss and chose to bowl. The two Patels put on 234 for the sixth wicket.
Before that, he had added 47 for the fifth wicket with Umang Kumar, one of the two debutants for Gujarat. After fog forced a half-hour delay to the start, Gujarat lost a wicket off the fourth ball of the innings, as Kathan Patel edged M.D. Nidheesh to Vathsal Govind at first slip.
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The seamer, playing his Ranji match this season, struck again in his next over, as he had the Gujarat captain Bhargav Merai glancing to wicketkeeper Vishnu Vinod.
Saurav Chauhan, the debutant opener, though was playing some sweetly-timed shots. But he gave a catch to slip off a ball that bounced awkwardly from Edhen Apple Tom, the teenager who was Kerala’s hero in the win against Meghalaya.
Off the very next ball, Basil Thampi trapped Manprit Juneja in front. But Het and Umang ensured there was no further damage till lunch.
In the second session, however, Umang slashed at a Nidheesh delivery and was taken behind the stumps. At 90 for five, Kerala may have felt it could get Gujarat out cheaply, but Het and Karan showed great application and batted sensibly on a wicket that was beginning to ease out under a bright sun.
It was Nidheesh who broke that partnership too, but it probably came a bit too late in the day for Kerala.