Under an overcast sky, Kerala captain Sanju Samson did his team a huge favour by winning the toss and gave his bowlers the chance to exploit the helpful conditions at the KCA-St.Xavier’s College ground.
However, the Kerala medium pacers Fanoos and N.P.Basil underperformed by bowling too short and Sanju was forced to turn to his spinners within the first half an hour.
Chhattisgarh opener Sanidhya Hurkat duly obliged by pulling a rank short ball from off-spinner Vaisakh Chandran to Sanju at mid-on to trigger a collapse. The moisture on the wicket offered bounce and turn and Jalaj Saxena thrived under favourable conditions to pick up another five-wicket haul (5/48) to bundle out Chhattisgarh for 149. Vaisakh Chandran (2/39) and Sachin Baby (2/2) played their supporting cast well.
By the time Kerala started its reply, the pitch had eased up and the openers P. Rahul and Rohan Kunnummal were watchful and added 47 runs for the first wicket.
Left-arm spinner Ajay Mandal trapped Rahul (24) in front and Rohan, though not at his fluent best, scored 31 before he was bowled by medium pacer Sourabh Majumdar.
Rohan Prem (29 batting) and Sachin Baby (11 batting) survived a testing final hour as Kerala reached 100 for two at stumps.
Earlier, more than the wicket, it was the Chhattisgarh batters’ indecision and poor shot selection that led to their downfall. Skipper Harpreet Singh Bhatia played positively from the start, punishing the loose balls to add 35 runs for the second wicket with Ajay Mandal (12).
The collapse started when Ajay Mandal was snapped up by Sachin Baby at leg slip off Jalaj. The off-spinner was on a hat-trick off the next ball as Baby caught Amandeep Khare at silly.
As wickets fell around him, Chhattisgarh skipper Harpreet Singh Bhatia chose the attacking moments well to compile 40 runs. Harpreet looked assured until he played onto a ball that bounced a little more from Vaisakh Chandran.
Chhattisgarh collapsed from 55 for two to 104 for nine before a 45-run last-wicket stand between Mayank Yadav (29 not out) and Sourabh Majumdar (19) frustrated the host.
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