Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Chirag Jani scores ton, Saurashtra takes three points

Tamil Nadu returned home with just a point as Chirag Jani’s defiant unbeaten 124 saw Saurashtra gain the first innings lead in their Ranji Trophy Group B clash.

Saurashtra's Chirag Jani after notching up his century against Tamil Nadu in Rajkot.   -  Vijay Soneji

Tamil Nadu had travelled all the way here, hoping for an outright win and a miraculous entry into the knockout stage. However, it had to return home with just a point as Chirag Jani’s defiant unbeaten 124 (292b, 10x4, 2x6) saw Saurashtra gain the first innings lead in their Ranji Trophy Group B clash at the SCA Stadium here on Saturday.

Overnight 346 for six, the host required 79 runs for the lead. The team depended a lot on Arpit Vasavada, who had remained unbeaten on 126, and Chirag. But, the former departed after making 132 while trying to steal a single.

It was Chirag’s call and Vasavada took off late. Abhinav Mukund, sensing an opportunity, swooped in on the ball from short mid-wicket and shattered the stumps to catch Vasavada short. The Saurashtra camp was left shaken as it wanted Vasavada to play a longer innings.

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Dharmendrasingh Jadeja followed soon after, edging pacer K. Vignesh to wicketkeeper R. Kavin, substituting for Jagadeesan, who was nursing an ankle twist suffered during the warm-up session.

The two quick wickets swung the momentum the visitors' way. Just when Tamil Nadu was looking to clean up the tail, Chirag found an able ally in Unadkat (40, 90b, 5x4). The Saurashtra skipper stood firm, forging a 74-run alliance for the ninth wicket to help the hosts win the first innings race.

Unadkat finally fell leg-before to debutant Sinivas. Chirag's century was the only interest left in the contest and he did not disappoint, reaching the three-figure mark with a single to midwicket off part-time off-spinner Kaushik Gandhi.

Chirag earned a huge round of applause from his Saurashtra teammates for his knock and more importantly for shouldering the responsibility.

Saurashtra had reached 481 for nine, shortly before tea, when the captains decided to shake hands.

“It [losing first innings points] was difficult to digest after putting up a huge total on the board. But this venue is known for its high-scoring games. However, I think we bowled and controlled the game but could not pick up wickets,” said B. Aparajith, the Tamil Nadu skipper. He felt that the season was "good" overall.

“It’s disappointing not to be in the knockouts but definitely we will come back stronger, both as individuals and team, next year.

"It’s a process and will take some time. Every match played this year was a learning curve for all of us and these learnings will come in handy next season,” he said.

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