Ranji Trophy: Chhattisgarh-Hyderabad match hangs in balance

At the end of the second day’s play at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium, Chhattisgarh, after restricting Hyderabad to 351, was safely placed at 124 for one.

Sahil Gupta

Sahil Gupta contributed 55 runs before losing his wicket in the dying minutes on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy match between Chhattisgarh and Hyderabad.   -  Special Arrangement

Thanks to a spirited spell by new-ball bowler Pankaj Rao and the resilience displayed by openers Sahil Gupta and Abhimanyu Chauhan, Chhattisgarh ensured that its Ranji Trophy Group C tie versus Hyderabad was hanging in the balance halfway into the match.

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At the end of the second day’s play at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium, Chhattisgarh, after restricting Hyderabad to 351, was safely placed at 124 for one. Despite losing his partner Gupta in the dying minutes, opener Abhimanyu Chauhan hung around along with nightwatchman Sumit Ruikar to keep his team in the game.

On the opening day, Rao – Chhattisgarh’s lead pacer – had struggled to hit the straps consistently. As a result, after being deprived of the second new ball late on the first evening, Rao was also kept at bay on Tuesday morning. However, he looked a different bowler ever since skipper Mohammad Kaif threw the ball to him in the eighth over of the morning.

His nagging line to the left-handed duo of B. Sandeep and Mehdi Hasan dried the run flow, which eventually paved the way for the first breakthrough. Soon after Hyderabad had crossed the 300-run mark, Hasan’s attempt to break the shackles with a straight drive only ended up in Rao taking a brilliant catch.

That opened the floodgates as Hyderabad lost the last six wickets for just 51 runs. Rao followed up the dismissal by seeing the back of wicketkeeper Habeeb Ahmed with the delivery of the innings. The ball pitched around the off-stump and came back sharply in through the gate to take leg-stump cartwheeling. Rao’s marathon opening spell thus read 10-4-9-2.

Hyderabad’s hopes of putting on a huge total on the board thus rested on Sandeep’s shoulders. However, Tamrakar induced him into an uppish drive with lunch break approaching and Amandeep Khare accepted the catch at square point to deprive the batsman of a second successive hundred.

Rao then came back after lunch to wrap up the tail and earn his maiden five-for with Mohammad Siraj’s dismissal to hand over the charge to a struggling Chhattisgarh batting line-up.

Chauhan and Gupta gave the team the most ideal start as the duo first took the sheen off the new ball and didn't let a scoring opportunity go. While Gupta was the more cautious of the two, Chauhan’s first eight scoring shots were boundaries, his twin cover drives off C.V. Milind in the last over before tea taking the cake. Hyderabad’s poor catching helped the openers’ cause as both the batsmen got a reprieve each.

Soon after the duo registered Chhattisgarh’s maiden three-digit partnership for the opening wicket, they looked set to see the day through. But Gupta’s mistake of playing across the line to a straight one from Siraj gave Hyderabad a reason to smile at the end.