It was a class act. And, once again, Jalaj Saxena proved to be the thorn in the flesh of Rajasthan as he guided Kerala to a position of strength on the third day of the Group B Ranji Trophy match at the St. Xavier’s -KCA cricket ground, Thumba, on Thursday.
Having broken the back of the Rajasthan first innings with a haul of eight for 85 and scoring a fine 79 with the bat, the all-rounder smashed a brilliant century – the first by a Kerala batsman this season – to guide his side to 217 for two in the second innings and an overall lead of 309.
The pitch proved to be tough for the bowlers as Rajasthan resumed its first essay at the overnight total of 134 for six. And consequently it was a battle of nerves which in one way proved to be beneficial for the visitor, thanks to R.K. Bishnoi, T.N. Dhillon and D. L. Chahar, who made good use of the conditions to limit the Kerala lead below the three-figure mark (92).
It was just 20-odd minutes before the Rajasthan innings folded up and resultantly there was quite an urgency for Kerala to put up a total in quick time that the visiting side would find it difficult to chase on the last day. Saxena yet again was the man for the job and the right-handed batsman did not disappoint as he cut, drove and pulled the rival bowlers. Kerala maintained a run-rate of more than four all through as Saxena reached three figures, ending the day not out at 102.
After Vishnu Vinod and Rohan Prem went back in to the hut, Sanju V. Samson kept Saxena company as he helped himself to a superb 72.
Sachin Baby, the Kerala skipper, would have loved to give a few overs to Rajasthan in the final session itself but this was not to be so, as play was halted due to bad light, with 18 overs remaining to be bowled. Nevertheless, the promise of a keen contest between bat and ball on the morrow remains.
- Kerala 335 and 217 for 2 (Saxena 102*, Samson 72*; Dhillon 1 for 34, Lomror 1 for 47) leads Rajasthan 243 (Yagnik 62, Dhillon 44; Nidheesh 1 for 32, Joseph 1 for 62) by 309 runs.