Ranji Trophy: Pondicherry takes first-innings lead on third day; Udeshi fifer rattles Kerala

Riding on Sagar Udeshi’s five for 62, Pondicherry grabbed the first-innings honours on the third day of its Group C Ranji Trophy match against Kerala here at the Siechem Stadium on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: After bundling out the visitors for 286, Paras Dogra (in pic) and Jay Pande saw off the day without fuss as Pondicherry went ahead by 119 runs heading into the final day.  

FILE PHOTO: After bundling out the visitors for 286, Paras Dogra (in pic) and Jay Pande saw off the day without fuss as Pondicherry went ahead by 119 runs heading into the final day.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Riding on Sagar Udeshi’s five for 62, Pondicherry grabbed the first-innings honours on the third day of its Group C Ranji Trophy match against Kerala here at the Siechem Stadium on Thursday.

Riding on Sagar Udeshi’s five for 62, Pondicherry grabbed the first-innings honours on the third day of its Group C Ranji Trophy match against Kerala here at the Siechem Stadium on Thursday.

After bundling out the visitors for 286, Paras Dogra and Jay Pande saw off the day without fuss as Pondicherry went ahead by 119 runs heading into the final day.

Kerala would have been hopeful of staging a comeback after Basil Thampi trapped Neyan Kangayan in front in the third over with a delivery that seamed in.

Earlier, Pondicherry reaped the rewards of patience and planning. Udeshi bowled 17 wicketless overs in the first session. He spun the ball into overnight batters Sachin Baby (39, 125b, 3x4) and Salman Nizar (44, 126b, 3x4, 1x6), who refrained from going for the big hits on the leg-side, as it was manned by two fielders in the deep.

The pacers bowled in the channel with a packed off-side field. Baby and Nizar didn’t oblige and ground 16 runs off 75 balls before the former misread the line of the ball and, quite inexplicably, shouldered arms to a delivery that knocked his off-stump.

For the second time in the session, a bowling change ushered in a wicket. Abin Mathew came back for his second spell of the day and drew Nizar’s edge to the wicketkeeper.

Baby and Nizar had shared a long contemplative moment outside the boundary before making their way to the middle in the morning. They defended firmly and shuttled between the wickets eagerly and their initial caution had the promise of incipient momentum. But by Lunch, the chatter of the Pondicherry fielders, which had smacked of desperation, now betrayed a sense of inevitability.

Sagar Udeshi, who picked five for 62 against Kerala on Thursday.

Sagar Udeshi, who picked five for 62 against Kerala on Thursday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Akshay Chandran (70, 164b, 3x4) and Sijomon Joseph’s (35, 88b, 3x4) laborious 90-run partnership off 195 balls steadied the ship, evaded the follow-on but strengthened the possibility of an unfruitful draw. Skipper Joseph, reprieved on 17 by his counterpart D. Rohit, had shown intent when he stepped out and lofted Udeshi to the long-on boundary early into his innings.

But the dogged resistance that followed meant that ultimately the initial flair gave way to impatience. When Udeshi returned after a 22-over-long first spell, Joseph gave him the charge and top edged a straightforward catch to mid-off while looking to hoist the ball over midwicket.

Udeshi took three more in quick time and completed his fifer in a span of six overs before Ankit Sharma, after being subjected to harsh treatment on the leg-side by M.D. Nidheesh (24, 20b, 4x4, 1x6), took a return catch to give Pondicherry an 85-run, and in all probability, a decisive first-innings lead.

BRIEF SCORES
Pondicherry 34/1 in 14 overs (Paras Dogra 20 batting; Basil Thampi 1/12) & 371 vs Kerala 286 (Akshay Chandran 70, Salman Nizar 44; Sagar Udeshi 5/62, Krishna Pandey 2/25).
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