Thanks a to relentless, disciplined performance from its seamers, Andhra took the honours on Day One of its Ranji Trophy Group A contest against Rajasthan at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here.
Left-armer C. V. Stephen (4 for 67) ran through the middle-order after K. V. Sasikanth (4 for 50) did the early damage to leave Rajasthan struggling on 88 for 7 at lunch. It took a counterattacking effort from Ashok Menaria (74, 94b, 8x4, 2x6) to steer the total to 151. By stumps, Andhra had reduced the deficit to 69.
Menaria — who was part of Rajasthan Royals in the IPL back in the day — was cavalier in parts early on, before opening up right towards the end, collecting useful boundaries for his side. After lunch, No. 9 Tanveer-ul-Haq offered him good support and the two put on 33 runs for the eighth wicket; it turned out to be the highest partnership in the innings. The nagging stand was broken when Vijaykumar, who had been wicketless until them, got him to nick to first slip. No. 10 Aniket Choudhary was run out soon after, and Menaria decided to accelerate.
He displayed the occasional deft touch — a nudge through backward point — as well as his aggressive intent as runs came quickly. There were drives as well as agricultural hoicks — including one off Stephen. He lived by the sword and died by it, pulling Sasikanth straight to midwicket to perish.
Sasikanth had taken the rest of his wickets in the first hour of the day’s play. After a watchful, sedate start by Rajasthan’s openers, both fell to the right-arm seamer. Sasikanth was soon on a roll, having trapped captain Robin Bist lbw for a duck.
Stephen took the baton, and using his angles, pace and swing, caused further trouble for the home side. Mahipal Lomror appeared clueless in negotiating him, and after nearly nicking behind twice, edged to second slip. Soon, Rajesh Bishnoi, Salman Khan and Rituraj Singh were also dismissed.
Andhra’s top-order played comparably more assuredly. The openers weren’t hesitant to play their strokes, and Rajasthan separated them only in the 16 over. Hanuma Vihari, the captain, was caught behind for a duck, but C. R. Gnaneshwar and Ricky Bhui saw the team off safely to stumps.
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