S. Badrinath has carried the tag of a run-machine in domestic cricket for well over a decade. The machine seemed to have somewhat dried up ever since he moved out of Tamil Nadu and became a professional. On Monday, Badri of old was on display as he scored a fluent hundred, his first in almost two years, to lead Hyderabad’s charge against newbie Chhattisgarh at the Sardar Vallabhai Cricket Stadium.
Riding on Badrinath’s 134 and an on-song B. Sandeep’s unbeaten 73, Hyderabad ended the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Group C game at a respectable 267 for four. Had it not lost two quick wickets to the second new ball late in the day, Badrinath and Co. would have surely made Chhattisgarh captain Mohammed Kaif repent for having put Hyderabad in to bat after winning the toss.
The day started on a perfect note for Kaif’s boys, though, as Pankaj Rao got one to rise sharply after pitching on the seam and Akshath Reddy could only nick it to wicketkeeper Manoj Singh. Then on, however, the four-pronged pace attack and left-arm spinner Sumit Ruikar – surprisingly preferred over reliable Ajay Mandal – was made to toil by the Hyderabad top order.
Badrinath promoted himself up the order and square drove the first ball he faced to the point fence. While left-hander Tanmay Agarwal was sedate at the other end, Badrinath scored a flurry of boundaries, the first 28 of his 30 runs coming through crisp fours.
Once Manoj Singh spilled a chance offered by the former Test cricketer when he nicked Abhishek Tamrakar on 35, he made evident his intent on getting a hundred. While he crossed the 50-run mark for the first time this season with another square drive off Tamrakar in the 26th over, in the penultmate over before tea, he steered Pankaj Rao through the third-man region for his 17th boundary that fetched him a memorable hundred.
By then, however, he had lost Agarwal, edging Abhyuday Kant Singh to the 'keeper soon before lunch. He was replaced with another left-hander and Sandeep literally carried on from where he had left during his unbeaten double in Mumbai last week. The stylish left-hander took his own time to get his eye in. After facing 26 dot balls over 45 minutes, he opened his account with a sweet straight-drive off Tamrakar.
And the straight drives kept flowing at will off Sandeep’s willow, even after Badrinath succumbed in the second over with the new ball. Abhumanyu Chauhan pulled things back with identical dismissals of Badrinath and Benjamin Thomas. Mehdi Hasan then saw the day through with Sandeep to set up an interesting second morning.
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