Ranji Trophy: Jalaj Saxena, Sachin Baby put Kerala ahead

Jalaj Saxena’s enterprising half-century and a gritty knock by Sachin Baby, who strung together an unbroken, 116-run stand for the fifth wicket in the final session helped Kerala finish the day on a far more satisfying note at 223 for four against Hyderabad on the first day of the Ranji Trophy Group C match at the KIIT Stadium here on Thursday.

Jalaj Saxena’s enterprising half-century and a gritty knock by Sachin Baby, who strung together an unbroken, 116-run stand for the fifth wicket in the final session helped Kerala finish the day on a far more satisfying note at 223 for four against Hyderabad on the first day of the Ranji Trophy Group C match at the KIIT Stadium here on Thursday.

Earlier, Kerala made heavy weather of a decent opportunity to bat first on a good track with a disappointing score of 107 for four at tea break.

Electing to bat, Kerala suffered an early blow when left-arm medium-acer Chama Milind dismissed opener V. A. Jagadeesh forcing him to snick and see wicketkeeper Kolla Sumanth take a smart catch in the fourth over of the morning.

Then, a fighting partnership of 75 between opener Bhavin Thakkar (38, 101b, 4 x 4, 2 x 6) and captain Rohan Prem (41, 156b, 5 x 4) for the second wicket kept the Hyderabad bowlers at bay in the morning session.

However, resuming at a respectable 80 for one after lunch, Kerala clearly paid the price of being over cautious against an attack which was by no means unplayable — scoring just 40 runs from 32 overs and in the process losing three wickets.

Leg-spinner Akash Bhandari broke the stand after the break when it was looking dangerous by inducing a sweep stroke from the enterprising Bhavin Thakkar only to be bowled. Bhavin essayed some beautiful strokes on either side of the wicket with two straight sixes — one each off left-arm spinner Mehdi Hasan and Akash Bhandari.

However, soon after his dismissal, Kerala lost the big wicket of international Sanju Samson who was done in by sheer pace from Ravi Kiran.

Later, Rohan Prem, who was batting really well with a willingness to stay put, was beaten in flight and off the pitch by Mehdi Hasan to see Sumanth pull off a fine stumping to leave Kerala struggling at 109 for four.

But, the final session clearly belonged to Kerala thanks to the impressive knocks by Sachin Baby (51 batting, 126b, 6 x 4) and Jalaj Saxena (58 batting, 98b, 11 x 4) who made the bowling look clueless and clearly lacking the discipline which it showed in the post-lunch session.

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