Ashok Menaria came in to bat when Rajasthan was three down for 27. Andhra’s seamers were unrelenting and the pitch was helpful to them in the morning. The position soon deteriorated to 79 for 7 but through enterprise and craft Menaria helped the tail wag and take his team’s total past 150.
His innings wasn’t perfect; he had his plays and misses. But owing to a clear plan of counterattack, he profited. “When I started my innings, there was no plan. I just had to bat. But then Mahipal got out, and in the very next over Salman got out. Then I decided I will throw my bat at the bowling because only the fast bowlers were left to bat. The ball was moving and the wicket was damp; I thought anything could happen. I thought we could collect 20-30 runs quickly. It was good that we got 70-80 more runs; it became a better total to defend,” Menaria told Sportstar at the end of the first day’s play at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here.
How did he assess the bowling from Andhra’s seamers? “They bowled in good areas. In the entire innings, they made us play just one cover drive. They never gave us deliveries for the straight drive, or bowled at our legs so we could flick. The pitch and the weather also supported them. They were also swinging the ball. It was difficult. If one looks at Rajasthan’s batsmen, no one played any poor stroke to get out. They played normally and got edges, were bowled or fell lbw,” he said.
It was after lunch that the Rajasthan had some respite. Alongside Tanveer-ul-Haq, Menaria made the seamers appear less threatening. The two remained unseparated for more than 13 overs, collecting 33 runs.
“I had told Tanveer: just survive in the last two overs before lunch. That’s because there will be 40 minutes of sun’s warmth and the pitch will become easier to bat on. That is what happened. The ball started to skid and come on to the bat. The problem that confronted our team was that when everything was going well, it was their turn to bat. It may look like an excuse, but the pitch has played a big role in the match so far,” Menaria said.
The real twist was at the end, though. Menaria managed a flurry of boundaries and it was almost as if he was in T20 mode. The highlight was a lusty hit to midwicket for a six.
“I had fixed my spots to hit. If I got the balls in the slot, I would go for the hit. That’s because the boundary was so big, especially on this side (on the midwicket side towards South Pavilion). If the ball was mishit even a little, I would have been out. Hitting boundaries was becoming difficult. So I was looking to hit sixes. For that, I was on the lookout for suitable deliveries; if the ball was in my area I would hit it hard so if I gain an edge, the ball would fly to third man for four and if I connect, I could gain a six through mid-on or mid-wicket,” he said.
Although behind in the contest, Rajasthan has Day Two to look to turn the tables thanks to Menaria’s intervention.
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