Ranji Trophy: Raghav Dhawan, Ankit Kalsi take Himachal to a position of strength

On Day two, Himachal profited from the doggedness of opener Raghav Dhawan in seamer-friendly conditions of the morning, and the free-spiritedness of Ankit Kalsi later on.

The contest has now considerably tilted in Himachal's favour, thanks to knocks of contrasting styles but high pedigree from Ankit Kalsi and Raghav Dhawan.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Against a fresh bowling attack, and in cold, seaming conditions in the morning, Himachal opener Raghav Dhawan (71, 191b, 11X4) showed resilience to protect his side from a collapse.

He wasn’t averse to playing the attacking stroke when the opportunity arose, but the disciplined effort by Tamil Nadu’s seamers prevented him from opening up.

He survived lbw and caught-behind shouts, and the ball went past his bat numerous times. As the day wore on, his efforts bore fruit, paving the way for the likes of Ankit Kalsi (99 n.o., 138b, 15X4) and Rishi Dhawan to score runs freely towards the end of the day.

As it happened: Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Round 7, Day 2 Highlights

“The ball was seaming a bit in the first hour. It was difficult,” Raghav told Sportstar at the end of the day’s play.

The eagerness shown by the batsmen to capitalise on loose deliveries helped. “We had decided to be circumspect off full deliveries, and to punish anything pitched short or short-of-a-length,” Raghav revealed.

Raghav’s efforts were augmented by the presence of Nikhil Gangta (43, 76b, 8X4) at the other end. Gangta took the pressure off his partner by unleashing exquisite boundaries, especially square on the off-side. It was a decisive phase on the day; they stuck until the sting in the attack dissipated in the latter half of the day.

Commenting on Gangta’s knock, Raghav said, “He played very confidently, and his innings shifted the momentum to our side. On one occasion, he hit three fours in an over. It was a crucial innings.”

REPORT| Ranji Trophy: Ankit, Raghav lead strong Himachal effort

Yet, after the duo had done all the hard work, surviving a tough morning session, Gangta departed. Soon after lunch, he edged Mohammed, the right-arm fast bowler, behind. “It was a bit of a surprise, as he had been set. But such things happen,” he said.

But it didn’t trigger any collapse. Raghav stuck around for a while with Kalsi, the new batsman, before being dismissed lbw by Natarajan, the left-arm fast bowler. He had done his job.

Now it was up to Kalsi to enjoy himself. “I just wanted to play according to the merit of the ball,” he said. He scored boundaries at will, and his flicks were ubiquitous. Moreover, he had noted that “the bowlers were tiring.” It was a double delight for Himachal as he found an equally resourceful partner in Rishi.

“He played really well, scoring in unorthodox areas in the field,” Kalsi said.

The result was that by the end of the second day’s play, the partnership had ballooned to 119, and Himachal had 340 on the board, a lead of 113.

The contest has now considerably tilted in the home team’s favour. It took knocks of contrasting types to set it all up.