Sachin Baby’s laborious unbeaten 52 and Sanju Samson’s fine 47 rescued Kerala from danger on the first day of its Ranji Trophy Group C match against Himachal Pradesh at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.
Kerala, which was asked to bat after a one-and-a-half hours delayed start due to wet outfield, recovered from 17 for two to register 163 for four off 73 overs in its first innings. Baby and V.A. Jagadeesh (24) were holding fort when the umpires called off the day’s play due to bad light.
On a seamer-friendly track, Himachal dealt early blows on Kerala when Shresth Nirmohi bowled Jalaj Saxena in the fourth over. Bhavin Thakkar got out to a direct throw from Paras Dogra at cover while stealing a single three overs later.
Rohan Prem and Sanju Samson batted sensibly in their effort to steady the boat, but off-spinner Gurvinder Singh had the left-handed Rohan lbw after lunch. The Kerala captain was done in by a straighter one while playing for turn as his team struggled at 49 for three.
Samson and Baby built an important 57-run partnership for the fourth wicket to put the Kerala innings on track.
Samson played another fascinating knock, featuring his impeccable placement and fabulous drives. On a pitch offering variable bounce, he took 18 balls to open his account but unleashed some delectable shots to fetch seven fours, mostly on the off-side and straight down the ground, and a lovely six off left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar over long-on.
The 21-year-old was going strong when a gem of a delivery from Himachal captain Rishi Dhawan ensured his end. The ball took Samson’s outside edge to rest in Ankush Bains’ gloves in the first over of Dhawan’s fourth and best spell during which he stuck to a testing line and produced seven successive maidens.
Baby played a quiet role and rotated the strike, first with Samson and then with V.A. Jagadeesh. He also picked up six fours, including five on the onside, when the Himachal bowlers strayed in their line.
In his unfinished innings of three hours and 40 minutes so far, Baby put up another 57-run stand with Jagadeesh, who replaced an unfit Robert Fernandez. Jagadeesh blocked all threats solidly in his patient 24 gathered in more than two hours.
Himachal kept pressing through its hard working bowlers, including the tidiest Gurvinder. The 33-year-old off-spinner, who has returned after rectifying his action, bowled five maidens off his first six and closed the day with nine maidens off 18, conceding less than a run per over.
“The pitch was two-paced and they bowled well. So we had to play watchfully. Our target is to carry on tomorrow and bat once,” said Baby.