Ranji Trophy: Sachin Baby rescues Kerala against Pondicherry on day 2

Baby had Salman Nizar (24 n.o., 51b, 2x4, 1x6) for company as play drew to a close with Kerala still 260 runs behind with seven wickets remaining.

Kerala Batter Sachin Baby in action.

Kerala Batter Sachin Baby in action. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI / The Hindu

Baby had Salman Nizar (24 n.o., 51b, 2x4, 1x6) for company as play drew to a close with Kerala still 260 runs behind with seven wickets remaining.

A Sachin Baby (30 n.o., 91b, 3x4) rescue mission, for the umpteenth time this season, helped Kerala save face against Pondicherry on the second day of their Ranji Trophy Group C match here at the Siechem Stadium on Wednesday.  

Baby had Salman Nizar (24 n.o., 51b, 2x4, 1x6) for company as play drew to a close with Kerala still 260 runs behind with seven wickets remaining. The duo had cracks to fill with Kerala floundering at 71 for three. It duly responded with a 40-run stand, seeing off almost 20 overs in the final session by mixing flair and caution against the left-arm orthodox spin pair of Sagar Udeshi and Ankit Sharma.  

With the ball turning and the short-leg fielder coming into play often, Baby and Nizar pressed forward in defence and attack. When the ball was dropped short, the left-handers played with soft hands to kill the edges and pinched singles with gentle dabs behind square. Nizar’s six over long-on in the final hour was a bolt from the blue and signalled a shift in momentum. 

The need for impetus, however, was more urgent at the top and thus the lack of it more pronounced. After Pondicherry’s respectable 371, the visitors had to score at a fast clip in its bid to push for a vital outright win.  

New ball operators Abin Mathew and Vishal Khokhar were ready to oblige. Rohan Kunnummal and P. Rahul pounced on the room outside off and drove and slashed to collect five boundaries between them. 

However, they played right into the ploy. Kunnummal poked at a ball that was tailing away and edged to the slip fielder while Rahul was caught behind driving expansively outside off.   

Earlier in the day, Pondicherry continued to frustrate Kerala through Paras Dogra (159, 361b, 13x4) and Arun Karthik (85, 133b, 8x4, 1x6). With the second new ball just an over old, M.D. Nidheesh and Basil Thampi gave a glimpse of their sensational opening burst of the first day. They found both edges of the bat as the set batters were the beneficiaries of streaky boundaries through the slip cordon.  

Still, Karthick quickly added 20 runs to his overnight score before he was caught leaden-footed in front of the stumps by Thampi. Debutant Akash Kargave (48, 78b, 6x4) took 12 balls to get off the mark as the pacers teased him outside off. He eventually found his release with an authoritative pull to the square-leg boundary off Vishweshar Suresh, who continued to struggle with front-foot no-balls.  

Dogra and Kargave added 74 runs before the latter plopped an easy catch to mid-on off a mistimed flick. Jalaj Saxena (five for 75) then took over, removing the last four batters for the addition of just 17 runs to complete his sixth five-wicket haul and register 50 scalps in this season of the Ranji Trophy.  

BRIEF SCORES
Kerala 111/3 in 43 overs (Sachin Baby 30 batting, Salman Nizar 24 batting; Sagar Udeshi 1/11, Krishna 1/16) vs Pondicherry 371 in 127.3 overs (Paras Dogra 159, Arun Karthick 85; Jalaj Saxena 5/75, Sijomon Joseph 2/66).
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