Ranji Trophy: Serene Abhinav keeps Tamil Nadu afloat

Scoring a century studded with gorgeous strokes, opener Abhinav Mukund lays the foundation for Tamil Nadu’s strong reply in the second dig.

Tamil Nadu batsman Abhinav Mukund celebrates his century against Himachal Pradesh at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala on Monday.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Erasing a 236-run first-innings deficit can appear as a mountain to climb, especially in light of the capitulation on the first day. But Tamil Nadu’s top-order put up a sterner resistance to Himachal’s hard-working seamers to give itself a good chance of wriggling out of the contest with a draw.

With one day to go, TN trails by 58 runs in the second innings, with eight wickets in hand.

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Abhinav Mukund (111, 181b, 16X4) was central to his team’s recovery. The opener struck boundaries all around the ground to score an entertaining century. Unlike his more cautious partners – B. Aparajith and B. Indrajith – Abhinav seemed intent on playing drives, especially through extra-cover and cover-point regions.

“I was not looking to shut shop. When the opportunity arose, I played my strokes, also because it would unsettle the bowlers,” he told Sportstar at the end of day’s play.

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After collecting his 15th boundary through the covers, he nearly chopped on to the stumps, and ran for a single. It was an uncharacteristic way to bring up his century that seemed inevitable.

He had begun his innings in dire circumstances. Dinesh Karthik, opening the innings alongside him, attempted a pull off a short delivery by seamer Pankaj Jaiswal soon after lunch, in the fourth over of the innings, and was caught behind.

Another collapse would have resulted in Himachal’s third innings win in a row.

The post-tea session was one-sided as the seamers were handled confidently; the batsmen left all deliveries outside off. Aparajith was caught in the slips off Raghav Dhawan, the seamer, but his brother – B. Indrajith — continued the good work through to stumps.

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Earlier, Ankit Kalsi (144 not out, 230b, 21X4) reached his third first-class half-century after patiently seeing many deliveries through the keeper when on 99. He eventually reached his landmark 20 minutes into the morning session, gently guiding a delivery from right-arm pacer M. Mohammed to the cover region for a single.

He stuck through till the end of the innings, even as wickets around him fell consistently. Rishi Dhawan added just four runs to his overnight score to be dismissed for 75, bowled by the diligent T. Natarajan (5 for 122).

Mayank Dagar was cavalier, and Pankaj Jaswal bellicose, as Himachal pressed the accelerator. Both were undone by left-arm spinner R. Sai Kishore.

Natarajan wrapped up the innings by having No. 11 Arpit Guleria caught behind. It gave him his fifth wicket, a reward for his discipline and persistence.

Abhinav then took responsibility of resurrection, and delivered.

Brief scores: At Dharamsala: Tamil Nadu 227 & 178 for two in 57 overs (Abhinav Mukund 111 batting) v Himachal Pradesh 463 in 116.2 overs (Raghav Dhawan 71, Nikhil Gangta 43, Ankit Kalsi 144, Rishi Dhawan 75, T. Natarajan five for 122).