Ranji Trophy: Probing Vijaykumar pegs Kerala back

Andhra captain Vihari made use of the advantage he got by winning the toss as his trusted soldier Vijay Kumar executed the plans perfectly with a six-wicket haul as Kerala floundered badly on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Group C match at the ACA stadium on Monday.

Andhra's P.Vijaykumar celebrates his fourth wicket against Kerala.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Andhra captain Vihari made use of the advantage he got by winning the toss as his trusted soldier P.Vijaykumar executed the plans perfectly with a six-wicket haul as Kerala floundered badly on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Group C match at the ACA stadium on Monday.

The 30-year-old Vijaykumar exploited the conditions perfectly to have Kerala reeling at 188 for eight at stumps. His package of probing line along with hint of movement exposed the chinks in Kerala’s batting. If not for an innings of maturity by young Mohammed Azharuddeen (82) who fell on the second last ball of the day, Kerala would have been in deeper trouble.

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Azharuddeen eschewed his normal aggressive game but was positive enough to punish loose deliveries. Out of the blue he hit boundaries that released pressure and looked set for a century until he was out thought by Vijaykumar in the last over of the day when the bowler lured Azhar to play his favourite square cut and had him caught at gully. "I planned his dismissal. The batsman was hitting the square cuts in the air and I tempted him with a wide ball and placed a man in catching position and he fell to the trap," said Vijaykumar. "I just concentrated on bowling a good line and exploited the conditions well, " added the medium pacer.

Openers Bhavin Thakkar and Vishnu Vinod had little clue as the ball swung for Vijaykumar and Ayyappa Bandaru. It was inevitable that they soon would fall to catches behind the wicket, which they did. Sanju Samson’s wretched run continued. After getting a second ball reprieve, when Prasanth dropped him off Vijaykumar, the batsman failed to capitalise on that as Vijaykumar sneaked a ball through his defence and he was bowled for nought.

Captain Rohan Prem slipped into the role of his familiar role of rebuilding the innings with young Azharuddeen. The two added 68 runs for the fifth wicket which was the best phase Kerala enjoyed in the day. Rohan with unconvincing edges survived and when Vijaykumar went off to rest after a marathon spell, he began playing the shots.

Azaruddeen didn’t let go of any opportunity to hit boundaries and left arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt fed him enough deliveries for the drive which was the feature of his innings. Vijaykumar came back after lunch and had Rohann(42) caught behind with a ball that bounced wee bit more than the batsman expected. Iqbal Adbullah (27) added 48 runs for the sixth wicket and looked assured during his stay. But a rush of blood cost Abdullah his wicket, when the batsman needlessly tried to hit Vijaykumar across the line and was bowled. Vinod Kumar (8) tried to be aggressive against Teja and paid the price. Vijaykumar capped up a fine day by having Kerala’s best batsmen Azharuddeen caught at gully as Kerala slipped further.

Kerala coach conceded that losing the toss was crucial and complimented Vijaykumar for his probing spell.