Kerala conjured a tremendous fightback against Saurashtra to resurrect itself on the second day of the Ranji Trophy Group B contest at the St. Xavier’s KCA cricket ground, Thumba, on Saturday.
The turnaround of the home side has thrown up possibilities for either side as two full days remain for the conclusion of the crucial encounter. Kerala was unable to stop Saurashtra from gaining the first innings lead – a mere seven runs – but this after the visitor seemingly looked to be racing ahead to an unassailable position after resuming its essay at 37 for one in reply to the host’s modest total of 225.
Robin Uthappa and Snell S. Patel, its openers, fired on all cylinders, leaving often the rival bowlers clueless. Saurashtra had hardly any trouble in constructing a fine century partnership before the latter fell on 107. Having got the initial breakthrough, the home side was able to put the brakes on Saurashtra’s smooth progress. Left-arm spinner Sijomon Joseph, who had dismissed Snell S. Patel (49, 78 balls, 8x4), prodding him to offer a catch to Jalaj Saxena, also got rid of the dangerous Robin Uthappa (86, 120 balls, 10x4, 5x6) after K. C. Akshay had accounted for A. A. Barot cheaply.
Still, at 157 for three at lunch, Saurashtra, boasting of a strong line-up, seemed to be cruising. Kerala returned after the break to trigger a collapse of the rival batting. The visitor was suddenly reduced to 178 for 7 before a fine rearguard action by J. M. Chauhan (30 not out) and Jaydev Unadkat (26) helped Saurashtra go to the tea-break (223 for seven) without further loss of wickets.
Joseph catalyses end
But the drama was not over. Kerala again bounced back, with Basil Thampi reintroduced into the attack after the 70th over, mopping up the tail for the addition of just nine more runs. Joseph was the leading wicket-taker for his side with a haul of four for 64, while Thampi finished with three for 36.
With 19 overs remaining before stumps, Kerala, in its second essay, lost Mohammed Azharuddeen leg-before-wicket to Dharmendra Jadeja, but Jalaj Saxena and Rohan Prem stayed together to put on a total of 69 for one – a lead of 62 runs. It opens up a window of opportunity for the home side.
The action through the next two days can be gripping as it was on this day.
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