Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Kerala founders after M. D. Nidheesh runs through Punjab

Nidheesh’s spell of 7 for 88 hands Kerala a narrow first-innings lead; Gurkeerat Mann dents the Kerala top-order in its second dig.

M. D. Nidheesh registered his career-best bowling figures.   -  Akhilesh Kumar (File Photo)

It was an act of cricketing injustice when Kerala batsmen failed to deliver in the second innings after a remarkable bowling effort from M. D. Nidheesh (7 for 88) had given the host a nine-run lead. The inept batting display by its batsmen saw Kerala tottering at 88 for five at stumps on the second day of the Ranji Trophy Group A match against Punjab at the KCA-St.Xavier’s College ground on Sunday.

Kerala leads by 97 runs but will need more runs to make a match out this. The credit goes to Punjab’s spinners, especially Gurkeerat Maan (four for 27), to keep their side very much alive in the contest.

Flight and turn

Maan teased and tormented the Kerala batsmen with flight and turn and he was so well supported by Vinay Choudhary that Mayank Markande’s leg-spin wasn’t needed at all.

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Kerala tinkered with its batting line-up, sending in a horde of left handers to neutralise the threat of Maan’s off spin. The experiment to open with Robin Uthappa failed as the batsman fell off the first ball of the second innings to push the host on the backfoot. Akshay Chandran and Rohan Prem figured in a 55-run stand for second wicket but Maan’s late strikes gave Punjab the upper hand.

Lion-hearted effort

Earlier, it was a lion-hearted effort from right-arm seamer Nidheesh, who finished with career best figures, that gave Kerala the narrow lead. Playing his first match this season, Nidheesh troubled the batsmen with pace and movement to take his second five-wicket haul in the Ranji Trophy.

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The day started ominously for Punjab as Jalaj Saxena sent back night-watchman Markande on the fourth ball of the day.

Half-century for Mandeep

However, Maan played aggressively to pick up boundaries off Nidheesh and Jalaj Saxena. Nidheesh had Maan (37) mistiming a lofted shot and he was caught by Sachin Baby in the covers. In the same over, Nidheesh snared Anmolpreet Singh, who was dismissed by Salman Nizar for a duck as Punjab slid to 71 for five.

As the Punjab innings disintegrated before him, captain Mandeep Singh (71 n.o.) showed good temperament to counter the Kerala attack. Mandeep rebuilt the innings with small partnerships, including a plucky ninth-wicket stand with Siddharth Kaul (25), to frustrate the host. The 47-run stand was crucial in the context of the game and whittled down Kerala’s lead to a single-digit figure.

The scores
  • Kerala 1st Innings: 227
  • Punjab 1st Innings: Rohan Marwaha b Nidheesh 16, Sanvir Singh c Robin b Nidheesh 1, Gurkeerat Mann c Baby b Nidheesh 37, Mayank Markande c Akshay b Jalaj 14, Mandeep Singh not out 71, Anmolpreet Singh c Salman b Nidheesh 0, Abhishek Sharma c Azharuddeen b Nidheesh 17, Anmol Malhotra lbw Nidheesh 21, Vinay Choudhary lbw Nidheesh 0, Siddharth Kaul run out 25, Baltej Singh st Azharuddeen b Sijomon 2, Extras (nb-2, b-3,1b-9): 4. Total (in 65.4 overs) 218.
  • Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-18, 3-49, 4-71, 5-71, 6-99, 7-145, 8-151, 9-199.
  • Kerala bowling: Nidheesh 21-3-88-7, Thampi 5-0-30-0, Jalaj 28-6-61-1, Sijomon 10.4-3-25-1, Akshay 1-0-2-0.

  • Kerala 2nd Innings: Robin Uthappa c Anmolpreet b Vinay 0, Rohan Prem c Kaul b Maan 17, Akshay Chandran b Maan 31, Sachin Baby lbw Maan 10, Vishnu Vinod c Lumba (sub) b Maan 8, Mohd. Azharuddeen batting 8, Salman Nizar batting 7, Extras (b-4, lb-3):7. Total (for five wickets in 29 overs) 88.
  • Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-55, 3-55, 4-73, 5-74.
  • Punjab bowling: Vinay 11-1-40-1, Maan 12-0-27-4, Kaul 2-0-9-0, Baltej 4-2-5-0.