Ranji Trophy: Ashwin takes five as TN bowls HP out for 158

R. Ashwin bowled Tamil Nadu to a strong position with a five-wicket haul to dismiss Himachal Pradesh for just 158 on day one of the second round Ranji Trophy clash.

R. Ashwin in action during Tamil Nadu's second round match against Himachal Pradesh.   -  G. KARTHIKEYAN

R. Ashwin bowled Tamil Nadu to a strong position with a brilliant five-wicket haul in a non-stop spell of 29 overs to dismiss Himachal Pradesh for just 158 on the first day of the second round Elite Group B Ranji Trophy clash at the NPR College grounds here on Tuesday.

Opting to bowl, TN pacers Vignesh and Natarajan started things off tightly with the former accounting for opener Prashant Chopra.

Skipper B. Aparajith - who is leading the side after Vijay Shankar was ruled out due to wrist pain - brought Ashwin into the attack in the 15th over of the innings.

TN had made five changes to the side that lost to Karnataka with opener K. Mukunth making his debut. The India off-spinner struck immediately off his second ball when he had opener Priyanshu Khanduri caught at short-leg.

There was assistance for the spinners with some turn which was enough for Ashwin and Sai Kishore to put Himachal under pressure by bowling with attacking fields with four catches going to short-leg and leg slip fielders.

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Just before lunch, Ashwin got two wickets in quick succession to visitors struggling at 63 for five. The 33-year-old off-spinner was relentless giving hardly any loose deliveries to the batsmen who struggled to rotate strike.

Himachal skipper Ankit Kalsi, in particular, looked clueless scoring just eight off 44 deliveries he faced off Ashwin before the left-hander misread a straight delivery by not offering a shot only to see his stumps rattled.

Immediately after lunch, Sai Kishore and Ashwin scalped wickets off successive overs before Mayank Dagar (33) and Akash Vashisht (35) added 53 runs for the eighth wicket to help Himachal go past 150.

The duo played sensibly running hard between the wickets trying to take on the bowlers with Vashisht playing a couple of sweeps to the leg-side boundary. With overcast conditions, Vignesh - who bowled without much luck in the morning - could have been brought back on earlier to knock off the tail-enders. The pacer eventually broke the partnership dismissing Dagar.

In reply, TN only batted three overs before bad light forced an early stop to the day’s play half-hour before scheduled closing time.

“Ashwin bowled brilliantly and held one end up. However, I feel after reducing them to 76 for 7, we should have restricted them to about 120,” said TN coach D. Vasu.