Jalaj Saxena, not for the first time, spun things around for Kerala when the going was getting tough. On the third day of the Ranji Trophy match at the JSCA Stadium, host Jharkhand was well placed at 316 for four.
With the irrepressible and in-form Ishan Kishan (132, 195b, 9x4) and the vastly experienced Saurabh Tiwary (97, 229b, 8x4) involved in a long partnership, Kerala’s first innings total of 475 was no longer looking safe. But Jalaj clean-bowled Tiwary to end the stand when it was worth 202. In his next over, he had Kishan caught behind by Sanju Samson.
Before long, the Jharkhand innings folded, as it lost its last six wickets for an addition of 24. Jalaj finished with five for 75 from 37.3 overs. It was his 23rd five-wicket haul in First Class cricket. There were three wickets for Basil Thampi.
Though it was a remarkable recovery staged by Tiwary and Kishan, who came together with the score on 114 for four, the home side must be feeling disappointed that the innings ended so quickly after the dismissals. Earlier, it had resumed at the overnight 87 for three.
“It is a hard wicket and there was not much help for the bowlers,” Jalaj told Sportstar. “I am glad that we could get the first-innings lead, which could become crucial. We would try to force a win, as there are another 90 overs still remaining in the match.”
Kerala will go into the final day at 60 for one – a lead of 195 -- with debutant Shoun Roger batting on 28. He came in the fourth over following the rare failure of Rohan Kunnummal. The prolific opener was bowled by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem for six.
SCORES Kerala -- 1st Innings: 475.
Jharkhand -- 1st Innings: Nazim Siddiqui lbw b Vaisakh 24, Utkash Singh b Thampi 3, Kumar Suraj lbw b Vaisakh 28, Virat Singh c Fanoos b Thampi 30, Saurabh Tiwary b Jalaj 97, Ishan Kishan c Samson b Jalaj 132, Kumar Kushagra b Jalaj 7, Shahbaz Nadeem c Shoun b Jalaj 4, Rahul Shukla c Shoun b Thampi 1, Manishi (not out) 2, Ashish Kumar c Fanoos b Jalaj 1; Extras (b-6, lb-2, nb-2, w-1) 11; Total (in 105.3 overs): 340. Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-51, 3-56, 4-114, 5-316, 6-329, 7-336, 8-337, 9-337.
Kerala bowling: Thampi 12-1-55-3, Jalaj 37.3-9-75-5, Fanoos 6-2-19-0, Sijomon 18-1-80-0, Vaiskah 27-4-81-2, Akshay Chandran 5-0-22-0.
Kerala -- 2nd Innings: Rohan Prem (batting) 25, Rohan Kunnummal b Nadeem 6, Shoun Roger (batting) 28; Extras (lb-1) 1; Total (for one wkt. in 15 overs): 60.
Fall of wicket: 1-12.
Jharkhand bowling: Ashish 4-0-14-0, Nadeem 7-0-27-1, Manishi 3-0-13-0, Utkarsh 1-0-5-0.