Ranji Trophy: Umesh grabs seven to put Vidarbha on top

Umesh Yadav recorded his career-best domestic figures as Vidarbha bundled Kerala out for 106 on day one of Ranji Trophy semifinal.

Umesh Yadav's previous best was 7-74 against Maharashtra in 2010-11.   -  PTI Photo

Umesh Yadav recorded his career-best domestic figures as Kerala was bowled out under 30 overs on day one of its maiden Ranji Trophy semifinal.

Three of Kerala’s top four batsmen could not reach double figures and lasted a total of 44 balls as Yadav's career-best first-class figures of 7 for 48 propelled defending champion Vidarbha in the ascendancy at the Krishnagiri Stadium here on Thursday.

Rajneesh Gurbani's (3 for 38) first-ball bouncer, where he had opener Ponnam Rahul (9, 29b, 2x4) swerving out of the way, was a moment that not only set the tone for the rest of the day's play but spurred on the creation of many more.

Read: Umesh records career-best domestic figures

Faiz Fazal won a crucial toss and inserted Kerala in to bat. Yadav and Gurbani routinely ruffled Kerala's batsmen with swing, bounce, and pace in the seamer-friendly conditions in Wayanad. 

Gurbani's duel — he bowled 11 overs unchanged — with  Rahul particularly was riveting. He swung the ball into the left-hander, and on occasions had him fending off bouncers.

Rahul copped two nasty blows off the Vidarbha pacer in one over, requiring medical attention. That seemed to have played on his mind as Gurbani eventually had him edging to Fazal in the slips. 

Umesh, at the other end, found success when given an extended run with the new ball. In a devastating opening spell 6-1-17-4, he had opener Mohammed Azharuddeen (8, 8b, 1x4) caught at mid-off, before having Sijoman Joseph hopping about for safety as soon as he came in. Joseph eventually fell to Yadav for a seven-ball duck. 

Sachin Baby (22, 33b, 4x4) had a few close brushes but overcame a testing Yadav spell only to be floored by a Gurbani inswinger which castled the Kerala skipper's off-stump. Vishnu Vinod was the lone bright spot if one can call it that, scoring an unbeaten 37 with two boundaries and a six.

Basil Thampi and M. Nidheesh struck a few lusty blows to keep the sparse crowd entertained. Thampi clobbered Yadav through mid-off for his first boundary and followed it up with a drive through the vacant cover region.

Umesh Yadav:

"It is easily one of the quickest wickets I have bowled on in India. Kerala batsmen were in two minds, whether to play or shoulder arms. The plan was to hit the deck hard and let the wicket do the rest. It's a challenging pitch but our top three showed that if you spend time in the middle, runs will come. A lead in excess of 100 will serve us well."

Dav Whatmore, Kerala's coach:

"This wicket is drier than the one we played on in the quarterfinal versus Gujarat. Batting was tough in the morning. Our guys got hit but that's the game. We sure ended on a high, grabbing five wickets. Warrier's no-ball off the first delivery, of which he got a wicket, hurt us. That was a mistake. We have a very important second day coming up."

Just like he had in the second innings of the quarterfinal fixture against Uttarakhand, the 31-year-old pacer picked wickets in quick succession as Kerala folded for a paltry 106. Yadav bettered his previous first-class best of 7-74 versus Maharashtra in Nashik in 2010-11.

Jaffer's double of 1000

In response, Vidarbha was comfortably placed on 171/5 at stumps, an overall lead of 65 runs. Fazal (75, 141b, 13x4) and Sanjay Raghunath (19, 28, 4x4) added 33 for the first wicket before Nidheesh cleaned up the latter.

Wasim Jaffer (34, 52b, 6x4) joined Fazal and the duo went about erasing the deficit without any hassle. The Vidarbha captain struck a stroke-filled half-century in an innings studded with 10 hits to the fence before edging Warrier to the keeper at the fag end of the third session. 

Also read: Unadkat, Sakariya light up pacer-friendly day

Jaffer, meanwhile, completed his 1000 runs this season with a boundary before becoming Nidheesh's second victim of the innings.

The 40-year-old veteran is the first batsman in the Ranji Trophy history to achieve the feat on two separate occasions. In 2008-09, playing for Mumbai, he aggregated 1260 runs.

Basil Thampi got rid of night watchman Gurbani and Warrier had 18-year-old Atharwa Taide caught as Vidarbha reached 171/5 at close. The pitch may have eased out during the afternoon, but the first hour on day two will decide which way the momentum swings.