Andhra batter Ashwin Hebbar’s maiden First Class century stalled Saurashtra’s progress on day two of their Ranji Trophy sixth-round clash at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Wednesday.
While Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat had hoped to restrict the opposition to 300 after the opening day, Andhra, fuelled by Ashwin’s 109 (198b, 12x4, 1x6), posted 415 in its first innings.
After adding 159, for loss of five wickets, to its overnight total, Andhra crippled Saurashtra with early scalps before Sheldon Jackson (63*) and Arpit Vasavada (21*) led the home team to 122 for three at stumps.
Nithish Kumar Reddy troubled Saurashtra with a brilliant new-ball spell. He removed Saurashtra opener, Harvik Desai, who was caught behind with a steep bouncer.
Nithish then hatched a plan to get the better of batting giant Cheteshwar Pujara for five. Pujara was welcomed with a packed on-side field, with men at silly mid-on, square leg and short mid-wicket. Nitish started with a short ball and an overpitched delivery, which Pujara duly drove to the deep cover fence. Nitish returned with a sharper attack in the next over. He forced Pujara to play forward and eventually dislodged him with a delivery that moved in to uproot the off-stump. Left-arm spinner Lalith Mohan drew an outside edge from Chirag Jani, which was caught by Hanuma Vihari at first slip.
Earlier, Saurashtra seamers Unadkat and Chetan Sakariya were quelled by overnight batters Ashwin and Lalith. Lalith’s promising start was curtailed after a sheepish nick to keeper Harvik down the leg side off Jani. Nithish then shared the load with Ashwin, as Andhra added 78 before lunch.
As the half-chances piled on, Unadkat vented his frustration with two shies at the stumps in his follow-through, hitting Nithish hard on the pads twice. The field spread out in the second session as Ashwin deftly picked the gaps for boundaries. While Sakariya dismissed Nithish (28), Ashwin gathered pace and ended his eight-year wait for a First Class ton as Andhra cantered past 400.