Ranji Trophy: Chawla, Desai rip through Kerala

Gujarat’s Piyush Chawla and Sidharth Desai took eight wickets between them to catalyse Kerala’s collapse for 208.

Sanju Samson top-scored for Kerala with 51.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

Two spinners - a Test bowler from another State and a teenager picked from the junior squad - shone under the bright sun to ensure Gujarat’s defence of the Ranji Trophy began well on Saturday.

Piyush Chawla - who played for 12 years for Uttar Pradesh - and Sidharth Desai took eight wickets between them at the G. S. Patel Stadium. They bowled rather well, but were made to look even better by inept display by Kerala’s batsmen. The visiting side will hardly be pleased with its first innings score of 208, especially after winning the toss. In reply, the host ended Day One at 60 for two.

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Kerala will be relieved that one of the wickets it took was of Priyank Panchal, who had amassed 1310 runs in the last edition of the Ranji Trophy. The opener had also begun ominously in the new season with two centuries in the same match in the Duleep Trophy last month. Seamer M. D. Nidheesh took the prized wicket with a ball that left the opener and took an outside edge that was neatly snaffled by captain Sachin Baby at slip. He had made just 18.

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However, opener Samit Gohel, who had scored 914 runs last season, was still at the crease.

Fluent Samson

The brightest spark of the batting day was provided by the gifted Sanju Samson, who had raised hopes of a respectable score for Kerala before falling to the wily leg spin of Chawla. He was looking good on 51 when Chawla got one to turn from leg stump, take the edge and fly to slip.

Baby (49), too, failed to convert a good start.

Opener Arun Karthik and Rohan Prem had begun the innings promisingly. From 172 for four, however, Kerala suffered a slide; it was bowled out for an addition of another 36 runs. Chawla finished with five for 69, while the 17-year-old Desai took three for 90 with his left-arm spin. “It felt nice to bowl so many overs with him,” said the senior spinner. “I thought I could bowl better after changing the end and reducing my pace.”

Kerala’s coach Dav Whatmore said his team’s batting collapse was unacceptable. “Now we have to bowl well [on Sunday], which could be the most crucial day in the match,” he said.

Brief scores

Kerala 208 (Samson 51, Baby 49; Chawla 5 for 69, Desai 3 for 90) leads Gujarat 60 for 2 (Gohel 26 not out; Chandran 1 for 6) by 148 runs.

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