The left-handed duo of Saurabh Kumar and Chetan Sakariya were in cruise control mode as the duo starred on a gruelling second day’s play of the Irani Cup tie between Saurashtra and Rest of India.
While Sakariya’s five-wicket haul in his maiden Irani outing helped Saurashtra restrict Rest of India to 374 in the first innings, it was Saurabh - the diminutive dynamo from Uttar Pradesh - who created an impact before and after the pacer’s heroics to help RoI lay one hand on the prized silverware.
Thanks to Saurabh’s classy fifty, Rest of India extended the first innings advantage to a more-than-sizeable 276 runs. Towards the end of the day’s proceedings, he claimed the Saurashtra openers to leave the host reeling at 49 for two. Despite the marathon man Cheteshwar Pujara waiting in the dressing room, it will take a Herculean task for Saurashtra to make RoI bat again.
The day was marked with safe bets from both the teams after an action-packed opening day. With RoI having raced to a hefty advantage, Saurashtra resorted to containing tactics against overnight unbeaten batters.
The consistent fifth-stump line in the morning meant neither Hanuma Vihari nor Sarfaraz Khan got freebies to score. And once the runs dried up, it led to Chirag Jani forcing them into false strokes in successive overs. While Vihari poked outside off to edge to slips, Sarfaraz went for a lofted drive to be rapped in front of the wickets.
When Sakariya had K.S. Bharat caught in the slips moments before lunch and the new ball available, trailing at 196 at that point, Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat delayed the new ball. It gave Saurabh and Jayant Yadav ample opportunity to get their eye in and keep the scoreboard flowing.
Saurabh was impressive with his run-scoring ability square off the wicket on either side. By the time he edged an attempted horizontal heave off Sakariya, he had not only crossed his fifty but virtually shut the door on Saurashtra.
Saurashtra openers Snell Patel and Harvik Desai saw off the new ball but then perished to Saurabh’s artistry with his left-arm spin. While Snell, having kept for 110 overs, lofted a flighted ball straight to short-covers, Desai misread the flight to edge on to Bharat’s pads and the ball ballooned to Vihari at slip.