Harpreet Singh Bhatia led from the front for Chhattisgarh with a masterful unbeaten 149 denting Tamil Nadu’s desire for an outright win by taking his side to 261 for eight at stumps on day three of the Ranji Trophy clash here at the Nehru Stadium on Saturday.

For the third day in succession, the play could not be started on time and on Saturday the first session had to be skipped due to wet outfield following overnight showers.

TN, which had posted 470, struck early when Sai Kishore removed overnight batter Shashank Singh caught at silly point to reduce Chhattisgarh to 118 for six. After losing out on a session in the morning, TN needed to get things done quickly to press for the maximum points on offer.

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But at the other end, Bhatia along with Ajay Mandal batted sensibly and positively as they added 83 runs for the seventh wicket.

After getting to his half-century, Bhatia started to increase his tempo with fine sweeps to the fence off the spinners before picking two sixes down the ground. He got to his hundred in style with a straight hit down the ground against Baba Aparajith for a boundary.

Speaking after the match, Bhatia said, “As a captain, there was an added responsibility and I am happy I could do it for the team. There was some sharp turn and the ball was keeping low. So I just looked to play straight and even while playing on the backfoot preferred to punch through the off-side than cut.”

TN had a sniff when Aparajith broke the stand having Mandal caught behind and Sai Kishore trapping Mohammed Hussain in front just before tea.

However, in the final session, Bhatia farmed strike sensibly with Veer Pratap Singh doing his bit with solid defence as the duo added 53 runs in the unbeaten ninth wicket stand.

TN’s struggle to clean out the lower order has been a perennial problem over the last three-to-four years and the lack of a genuine quick bowler once again hurt them. 

Though Sandeep Warrier and Mohammed bowled only a few overs, the team needed the quicks to polish off the tail and felt the absence of someone like T. Natarajan, who can be accurate with his yorkers. 

To make things worse, Bhatia was dropped by Shahrukh on 139 with the fielder running backwards from mid-on but failed to hold on to the chance.