Ranji Trophy: Tamil Nadu survives a scare against Andhra

Nine of Tamil Nadu's fielders guarded the boundary line. Its pacemen bowled wide outside off. The captain and senior cricketers were locked in heated on-field discussions. This sleeper of a Ranji contest had reached an explosive climax.

K. S. Bharat cover-drove, swept and lofted with panache to make 64 off 86 balls.   -  V. GANESAN

Consider this. Tamil Nadu was expected by many to roll over Andhra in a familiar terrain. Then came the shock to the system.

Nine fielders guarded the boundary line. Pacemen bowled wide outside off. The captain and senior cricketers were locked in heated on-field discussions.

This sleeper of a Ranji contest had reached an explosive climax. Temperatures rose at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on a Monday of the underdog.  

Set a demanding target of 218 in 42 overs by Tamil Nadu on day four, the audacious Andhra made the host sweat before finishing short by 20 runs, losing seven wickets.

The host survived a scare… but only just as the dust settled on a humdinger. Still, Andhra took home three points for the lead and Tamil Nadu ended up with just one.  

Going into the last three overs, Andhra required 32 runs with six wickets in hand. The visiting side was throwing everything it had into the chase.

Tamil Nadu, however, pulled it back. Paceman K. Vignesh bowled well beyond off – the wide rules of limited overs format do not apply in the game’s longer version – and conceded only two runs in the 40 over while picking up the enterprising B. Sumanth’s wicket. Tamil Nadu rescued the game here.

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Skipper Hanuma Vihari kept Andhra in the hunt – he smote Ashwin for a six over mid-wicket – and the visiting side needed 20 off the last over.

Vignesh sealed it in the 15 mandatory over – getting Vihari to hole out in the deep and not conceding a run till  when both teams agreed to call off the game with two deliveries remaining.       

Earlier, Tamil Nadu had declared at 350 for six, with B. Aparajith notching up an unbeaten 108 (212b, 10x4), skipper Abhinav Mukund making 95 (200b, 7x4) and Murali Vijay coming up with 55 (93b, 4x4, 1x6).   

Tamil Nadu scored runs at a brisker pace on day four – the host gathered 238 in 51 overs against 112 in 54 on Sunday. Abhinav displayed greater purpose working the ball around and drilling the ball through the gaps, the strokeful Aparajith batted with poise and balance, and Vijay, returning to the crease after straining his ankle, batted with ease.

The host sought to put pressure on Andhra. The visiting batsmen, though, waded into Tamil Nadu’s bowling.

The pitch held firm – these neutral curators are not likely to prepare pitches that disintegrate – and Andhra hurtled towards a win.

Ashwin came under attack by the Andhra batsmen – the India off-spinner conceded 92 runs in 16 overs – was regularly struck over the mid-wicket fence for the maximum by the right-hand heavy line-up.

D. B. Prashanth Kumar (33) and the aggressive K. S. Bharath (64, 86, 5x4, 2x6) put on 85 for the first wicket in 23.1 overs.

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The intrepid Bharat cover-drove, swept and lofted with panache. He clubbed left-arm spinner Rahil Shah for a six over long-on before missing a swipe off the next one to be castled.

Then, Ricky Bhui (40, 40b, 1x4, 3x6) biffed some big blows, clearing the fence with ease. Vignesh, though, snared him close to the mid-wicket ropes.

Andhra’s game-plan was simple. With Tamil Nadu setting deep fields, singles were there for the taking while boundaries were hard. Apart from running hard, Andhra had to strike sixes and it did so on a consistent basis to keep the target within its reach.

But then, this was a day Tamil Nadu managed to hold on. It was a near thing.

BRIEF SCORECARD

Tamil Nadu 176 and 350 for six decl. in 105 overs (B. Aparajith 108 not out, Abhinav Mukund 95; Prithvi Raj Yarra three for 61) drew with Andhra 309 and 198 for seven in 41.4 overs (K. S. Bharat 64, Ricky Bhui 40; K. Vignesh three for 34)

 

We wanted to try for an outright win, says Mukund

Tamil Nadu captain Abhinav Mukund said he had wanted to set Andhra a challenging target while giving the visitor adequate number of overs so that it would be tempted to go for the chase.

“We wanted to try for an outright win but credit to Andhra, they put us under pressure. But we held our nerve in the end. K. Vignesh bowled well,” Abhinav said after the match.

Abhinav admitted there were areas of concerns for the team. “We did not bat well in the first innings. We need to look into that.”

On the biggest positive from the match, he said, “It was B. Aparajith’s batting. He looked good.”

Asked about Washington Sundar being under-bowled, Abhinav said, “When we have five bowlers in the eleven, one of them tends to get under-bowled. If I had given Rahil Shah less overs, people would have said, ‘Rahil is there as a specialist left-arm spinner, he should have bowled more.’”

Abhinav indicated that M. Vijay, who returned from an ankle strain to bat on Monday, would be fit for the next game here, against Tripura, starting from October 14.

Andhra captain Hanuma Vihari said, “Tamil Nadu set us a target. We went after the runs and Tamil Nadu panicked, they had nine fielders on the boundary line. We just fell short this time. Next time, we will cross the line.”