Jay Pande (102 n.o., 212b, 5x4) and Krishna Pandey (94, 83b, 4x4, 7x6) dashed Kerala’s hopes of an outright win and ended the visitors’ campaign on the final day of their Ranji Trophy match at the Siechem Stadium here on Friday.
Vishweshar Suresh (three for 58) scalped Akash Kargave and D. Rohit early in the second session, prompting the fielders to close in as Kerala sniffed an imminent collapse. But as Pandey unleashed his brutal assault on the spinners, the field spread and Kerala’s horizons contracted drastically.
Pandey was off the mark with a six off Jalaj Saxena and by the time overnight batter Pande plodded to his hundred, Pandey had surged to 88.
With an entire session left to play and his maiden First-Class hundred a shot away, Pandey holed out at long-off in a fitting testament to his cavalier innings, which hastened Kerala’s elimination from the race to the quarterfinals. The captains shook hands on a draw with Pondicherry, which bagged three points, 364 runs ahead.
Kerala had strutted out with a sense of purpose in the morning, desperate to shake off the pervasive inevitability of a draw with some quick strikes. But Basil Thampi and Vishweshar missed their lines. The former strayed on the legs while Vishweshar veered outside off-stump.
Paras Dogra (55, 115b, 4x4) and Pande rode out the first spell the duo bowled. M.D. Nidheesh (one for 32) operated at a better line and length, hitting the deck and finding movement off it to beat the edges. Vishweshar thought he had given Kerala an opening when he trapped Pande in front with a pitched-up delivery. But the debutant’s front-foot came back to haunt him as the third-umpire confirmed he had overstepped for the tenth time in the match. Distraught, he sank to his knees and his spirits rose only towards Lunch when he caught Dogra leg-before with a delivery that kept low for his maiden First-Class wicket.
But the solitary success in the first session was too little too late for Kerala. Jalaj Saxena and Sijomon Joseph combined for a 10-over spell with only one fielder outside the circle but were blunted by Pande and Dogra, who played with the turn and along the ground. Joseph then played matchups by bowling with fellow left-arm orthodox spinner Akshay Chandran to the two right-handers, changed angles and came over the wicket with a short-leg and leg-slip in place. But on a day four pitch that offered little assistance to the bowlers, Dogra and Pande’s patience ensured the writing was on the wall for Kerala long before Pandey took over.