Cautious, yet entertaining: Abhinav Mukund’s sunny knock lifts Tamil Nadu

Abhinav Mukund, the opener, was full of poise in his tranquil knock that pulled his side out of troubled waters.

Abhinav Mukund hit a sublime century to bail Tamil Nadu out of trouble.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Under pressure for the most part in the Ranji Trophy contest against Himachal, Tamil Nadu was in need of a healing hand to breathe easy.

It arrived in the form of Abhinav Mukund, whose confident, mesmerising strokeplay took his team to a position of relative safety and more importantly, shifted momentum.

En route to his 28th first-class century, Abhinav played drives through cover, extra-cover, and square on the off-side. There were a few straight drives as well, and those through the mid-off region. He seemed to be clearly enjoying the ball coming on to the bat on what has been a pacy wicket.

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“The pitch had good bounce. The ball was coming on to the bat. Also, it wasn’t swinging as much as the first day, not even in the morning,” Abhinav told Sportstar after his unbeaten 111 on Day Three.

Behind by 236 runs, the team needed to prevent a repeat of the first day, when it was bowled out for 227.

Moreover, Dinesh Karthik, Abhinav’s opening partner, was dismissed in the fourth over of the innings. Dour defence would have been an understandable approach for the batsmen in the middle, but Abhinav thought differently.

Although cautious, he wasn’t prepared to eschew his strokeplay. He admitted he had been “batting time,” but he was clear he would not “shut shop.”

He also enjoyed the ball racing through the outfield off the bat. “The outfield was very fast. Some of the strokes that went for boundaries would have been a single at Chepauk (M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai),” he noted.

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Importantly, he mixed vigil in good measure. “The ball had started swinging after tea. Perhaps it had started to reverse. The ball was moving around and Rishi Dhawan bowled a very good spell. It was important to see off the day,” he said.

Abhinav was the highlight, but wasn’t the only special performer from his side on the day. Fast bowler T. Natarajan turned in a five-wicket haul, a reward for his patience and discipline for much of the first innings.

Abhinav showered praise on the left-arm seamer. “Natarajan has been a workhorse for us. For someone considered a limited-overs specialist, to bowl long spells and consistently, is special. [Having starred in Tamil Nadu’s victory over Kerala,] he is our strike bowler at the moment,” Abhinav said.