Ranji Trophy: Saurashtra batsmen dominate Day two

At stumps on second day, ended early because of bad light right after Mankad had swept to his maiden first-class century, experienced Kamlesh Makwana (30) was at the other end, the duo having put together 101 runs.

Snell Patel (left) and Prerak Mankad helped Saurashtra take first-innings lead for the first time this season, against Karnataka in Patiala on Wednesday.   -  Special Arrangement

Prerak Mankad (100 not out) and Snell Patel (87) may be taking early steps in their fledgling first-class career but on Wednesday, the two friends put Saurashtra in firm control of the game and gave their team first-innings lead for the first time this season, helped nicely along by Karnataka's butterfingers that dropped half a dozen catches in their penultimate Ranji Trophy match here.

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At stumps on second day, ended early because of bad light right after Mankad had swept to his maiden first-class century, experienced Kamlesh Makwana (30) was at the other end, the duo having put together 101 runs. Saurashtra was on 297 for the loss of six wickets, a healthy lead of 97 runs on a pitch that wasn't easy to bat on. While both teams agreed it was easier than Day One, there was still enough bite to aid spinners and it took the two patient 23-year old grafters to show the way for batsmen from either side.

Mankad walked out with Saurashtra five down and still 61 runs in arrears but along with Patel, ensured there would be no slacking in terms of scoring. The team had struggled to build partnerships in the previous matches and everyone had admitted they weren't clicking as a unit but everything seemed to fall in place for them here. “I had Snell already set when I walked in. Pitch slow hai, pichle saal hum under-23 jahan khele the usse bhi slow. Bas yahi bola Snell ne, ki ruk ke shots khelna baki koi problem nahi hai (pitch is slower than the one where we played under-23 last year, that's all Snell told me, to hang around before playing my shots),” Mankad said.

He listened, settled and then smacked a straight six off Gopal to begin his assault. Couple of overs later, three fours – two straight down the ground and one swept to fine leg – off Gopal saw him racing to a run-a-ball 31 and take Saurashtra into the 190s. Playing their fourth and third first-class games respectively, Mankad and Patel were fluent in their strokeplay, scoring all around the ground. Leggie Shreyas Gopal suffered the most, hit all around the ground by the two.

Patel, meanwhile, made the most of his lifeline after being dropped on the last ball of the very first over for the day. Then on 10, he made sure Karnataka would rue the lapse. Left-arm spinner Abrar Kazi was the unfortunate bowler as wicketkeeper C.M. Gautam grassed an easy chance even as the overnight batsmen were still adjusting to the dew and movement. Patel and Jaydev Shah went about building a crucial 82-run partnership.

Sheldon Jackson was Vinay Kumar's third wicket, the Karnataka captain clearly the best of the bowling lot on a pitch more suited for spin. “He was the most difficult to play against since he is so experienced, he knew exactly where to pitch the ball and he was able to swing it both ways also. I think it was more his experience than anything in the pitch that got him all those wickets,” Mankad admitted. Other than that, Kazi was the only bowler to keep a lid on the scoring, not helped by the poor fielding. Gopal, Stuart Binny, Kaunain Abbas, CM Gautam, Robin Uthappa – each one dropped sitters and misfielded, allowing Saurashtra to gradually take control of the game.

Kazi finally had his man, Patel falling on 87 caught at short fine leg trying to scoop. The team was already on 196 by then and Mankad, deservedly, struck the runs that gave his team the lead three overs later.