It was the kind of day R. Vinay Kumar would wish for every single time.
On a nippy, winter morning, he won the toss, chose to bowl on a greenish-tinged wicket and swung the ball almost at will. The Karnataka captain took six for 59 and ensured that his team was in a position from where losing this Group-A Ranji Trophy match against Maharashtra would be difficult.
The visiting side ended the day at 117 for no loss at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium; the host was bowled out for 245. But for a brilliant hundred by Rahul Tripathi (120, 114b, 178min, 13x4, 3x6) that first innings score would have looked even worse.
It was counter-attacking at its best by the Rising Pune Supergiant star. When he went in, the score was 28 for five, and the game was still in the opening hour.
At that stage, Vinay, with excellent support from his new-ball partner Abhimanyu Mithun, was threatening to blow Maharashtra away, making excellent use of the conditions. He began with bowling opener Swapan Gagule through the gate with one that swung in.
Then he had Ruturaj Gaikwad caught at short leg, trying to flick through the leg side. That would prove a memorable debut in the field for D. Nischal, the 23-year-old batsman who went on to take four catches.
The pick of his catches was the one he took — again at short-leg — to send back wicketkeeper Rohit Motwani off Vinay. He dove to his right to come up with a one-handed catch.
That brought to the wicket Tripathi, who joined Naushad Shaikh. Together they steadied the sinking ship. At 143 for five, lunch would have tasted far better for Maharashtra players than they probably had anticipated.
The wicket had dried up and both were stroking beautifully. But when he was on 69, Shaikh (105b, 145min, 10x4) tried to pull off-spinner Pavan Deshpande and was adjudged lbw. Tripathi, however, went on to play some lovely strokes. He ushered in his 90’s with a six over long-on off Deshpande and reached his hundred by pulling medium-pacer Ronit More through mid-wicket.
Before long, however, another pull shot, this time off Stuart Binny, fell into the waiting and safe hands of Nischal at deep mid-wicket. Maharashtra’s innings came to an end shortly before the scheduled tea break.
The final session was batted out with ease by Karnataka’s openers R. Samarth and Mayank Agarwal.
“But, the match is just one day old and we hope to come back with a good session in the morning on Thursday,” said Tripathi. “Yes, it was one of my best innings ever.”
Vinay could have said something similar about his bowling. “To move the ball both ways is something I always tried to do,” he said. “And I am glad that we fielded and caught really well.”
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