The pitch did not change but the mindset of the players did as India Red, propelled by professionally-constructed centuries by Abhinav Mukund and Sudip Chatterjee, gave an improved account of its cricket on the second day of the Duleep Trophy league match, at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex here on Tuesday. Their second-wicket stand of 240 opened a window for the team to fight.
What a striking contrast to the inaugural day of the floodlight encounter it was! There was discipline in the batting approach and sanity was restored in the middle as bowlers learnt the hard way to earn their rewards. The batsmen, having put value to their reputation and wicket, did not repeat the mistakes of the first day. There was a method to their approach and India Red, 10 runs in deficit at the start of day's play, showed its tenacity to give the contest the status it deserved by finishing the day at 344 for three – 334 runs ahead.
Mukund’s 22nd first-class century was as good as the preceding ones. It gave his team space to make a match of it. He did not compromise with the situation by looking to just grind. He backed himself to play his shots and they came off in a flash off a willow that represented a confident man at the crease.
Resuming at 116 for seven, India Green added 35 runs this afternoon before handing over the stage to India Red. Nathu Singh, a wonderful athlete, raw but brimming with energy, claimed the remaining three wickets to finish with six for 53. He did not compromise with his zeal to bowl fast and returned rich figures to raise hopes of an India cap in the long season that lies ahead.
Mukund and K. S. Bharat adopted a positive stand. If the ball pleaded to be hit they did not disappoint. To their benefit, the pitch had eased out and the batsmen had little trouble in spotting the ball. The seam stood out in its black colour but it was the batsmen’s temperament that made an impression. Once they had resolved to apply themselves their job became easier and India Green realised soon it was up against a transformed opposition.
For Bharat, it was poor shot selection that cost him his wicket. He had decided to take on Ankit Rajpoot, a wiry but lively new ball bowler. The motivation for Bharat had come from the swung six off Ashok Dinda but he made an unwise move off Rajpoot, who crashed through his defence to hit the middle stump. Mukund and Sudip Chatterjee, complementing each other superbly, took over in style and gave the contest a meaningful course.
Mukund’s quality at the crease has never been doubted and he gave ample display of it this evening. Some glittering strokes from him left the bowlers admiring his work and the century was a benchmark he set for the remaining period of the tournament. He did succeed in dispelling any apprehensions the rest would have had of the pink ball under floodlights. Chatterjee, in hitting his sixth century, complemented his partner with a well-crafted knock that should set the trend for him this season.
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