Ranji Trophy: Odisha rides on Dhuper to succeed in run fest

The wicketkeeper-batsman, who scored 97, paused TN's hopes to make it to the knockouts; Odisha, who was at the bottom before this rubber, chased a mammoth 531 taking the first innings lead.

Odisha cricketer Rajesh Dhuper reacts after his dismissal against Tamil Nadu on the last day of the Ranji Trophy match in Cuttack.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

 

What started as a dreary day of cricket in the first session ended in a humdinger in which Odisha dealt a huge blow to Tamil Nadu’s (TN) tournament hopes by chasing a mammoth 531 and taking the first innings lead.

Riding on wicketkeeper-batsman Rajesh Dhuper’s heroic 97, Odisha, who was the bottom placed team in Group C before this match, prevailed in a nail biter with just one wicket in hand.

Scorecard

Half centuries from Shantanu Mishra and Biplab Samantaray set the tone for the day before the lower order led by Dhuper, Alok Sahoo and Suryakant Pradhan made the improbable happen.

It started slow with only 56 runs coming in the first session, but Odisha the lower-order showed great character to slowly chip away at the target.

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The Odisha keeper weathered the tough times before launching an assault in the final session of the day.

The inexperienced keeper, with only five first class games under his belt, was ably helped by Sahoo (36, 66b, 4x4, 2x6) and Pradhan (43, 39b, 4x4, 2x6) with their clean hitting that helped ease the pressure off Dhuper who held fort at one end.

Coming with a plan, Odisha executed it to a T playing out the first two sessions safely and achieved the first target of avoiding the follow on, in the second session. Going into tea, Odisha needed 113 off the last 30 overs with three wickets in hand.

Dhuper stitched three fifty plus partnerships — 62 with Sahoo, 58 with Pradhan — and 53 with Basant Mohanty — for the seventh, eighth and ninth wicket respectively.

Skipper Abhinav dropped TN’s fourth catch of the innings, when Pradhan got a life on 23. It was a tough chance running backwards over extra cover but Pradhan added 20 more runs with some lusty blows.

Once the eighth wicket fell, Dhuper took charge and was clean in his hitting. He drove the seamers over infield and went straight over the spinner’s head to score his runs.

However, Tamil Nadu’s poor over rate came back to haunt. It had to bowl 15 overs after the scheduled close of play. With the light deteriorating, TN could not bowl its pacers despite taking the second new ball after the 175th over.

While Yo Mahesh removed Pradhan immediately with the second new ball, skipper Abhinav was soon forced to use his spinners with an eight-over old ball to have a chance of picking the last two wickets.

Dhuper was dismissed for 97 when he tried to hit a wide one from Washington Sundar. It was an easy catch for the short third man.

But Basant Mohanty held his nerve and edged Washington to a boundary to take Odisha into the lead and shocked the visitors into disbelief.

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