Ranji Trophy: T. Natarajan runs through Kerala, hands TN big win

Fast bowler T. Natarajan takes five wickets to help bowl Kerala out for 217 in its second innings.

Star of the show: T. Natarajan (centre) celebrates alongside his team-mates after the win.   -  R. Ragu

On a track that was expected to assist the spinners, it was left-arm pacer T. Natarajan who took centre-stage. His maiden first-class five-wicket haul handed Tamil Nadu a 151-run win over Kerala at the M. A. Chidambaram stadium here on Sunday.

Chasing 369 and resuming at 27 for one, Kerala dominated the opening session of the day, thanks to some positive batting from nightwatchman Sijomon Joseph and Sanju Samson. It ensured the visitor went to lunch at 143 for two, adding 116 runs in the session, having lost losing only opener Arun Karthick (33).

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Samson, who joined Joseph with the score reading 60, kept the momentum going. The wicketkeeper-batsman started by stepping out to Sai Kishore to find the mid-off boundary before hitting both Rahil Shah and Sai Kishore for huge sixes. Joseph, too, showed he had the technique to belong to the top order; the youngster was not afraid to use his feet against the spinners, pocketing a couple of sixes.

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Samson used the sweep shot to good effect, too, and outscored his partner to get to his fifty before lunch. He eventually strung together a 97-run partnership for the third wicket with Joseph, frustrating the home side.

The Tamil Nadu bowlers were a bit flat and not helped by fumbles on the field — a missed stumping and a dropped catch (Joseph the lucky batsman on 13 and 27) — in the first session.

Turnaround

Post lunch, as in the first innings, Natarajan got the ball to reverse and delivered the perfect yorker to remove Joseph leg-before for a well-made 55. Within the next 15 minutes, Kerala crumbled, losing three more wickets. From 157 for 2, it was reduced to 160 for 6, and could never recover from there.

First, a mix-up between Samson and P. Rahul resulted in the latter getting run out. Before long, captain Sachin Baby fell leg-before to a yorker by Natarajan. V. A. Jagadeesh, too, fell lbw, trapped by Sai Kishore.

Spirited effort: Sanju Samson's knock of 91 went in vain. Photo: R. Ragu

 

After the contest, Natarajan revealed, “In the morning session, once they got some quick runs, we got a bit down. During the lunch break, the coach and the captain made it clear [that] we lacked intensity and had to step up. Thankfully, in the second session, I was getting some reverse [swing] and the yorker I bowled worked out well.”

On a rampage

The four quick wickets took the momentum off Samson, who managed to score only 25 runs in the second session. The Tamil Nadu bowlers had also been bowling a defensive line to him, with the left-arm spinners coming over the wicket and bowling into his pads.

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In the final session, captain Indrajith went aggressive with more than five fielders closer to the bat as Aparajith accounted for Vishnu Vinod and Samson, who fell nine short off his century, top-edging a sweep to square leg. Natarajan then cleaned up the tail to help Tamil Nadu clinch six points and finish with match figures of 8 for 84.

‘Very happy’

It marked the team’s first outright win in the Ranji Trophy since the quarterfinal win over over Karnataka in the 2016-17 season.

Indrajith, who had his first win as captain, said, “I am very happy to win after last game’s loss because to come back from tough situations is what matters. That’s important if you want to be a good team.”

Brief Scores
  • Tamil Nadu 268 and 252 for 7 dec. beat Kerala 152 and 217 (Sijomon Joseph 55, Sanju Samson 91, T. Natarajan 5 for 41) by 151 runs.
  • Points: Tamil Nadu 6, Kerala 0.