Known for his big hitting skills in T20s, Sanju Samson displayed his utility in multi-day cricket by scoring a fabulous unbeaten hundred (129 off 251 balls) and bailing out Kerala from trouble in its Ranji Trophy Group C match against Jammu and Kashmir at the Cricket Association of Bengal Academy ground here on Thursday.
After being inserted in on a seamer-friendly track, Kerala was 263 for seven in its first innings at stumps on day one.
Samson's knock was an advertisement of his technique and temperament. It also highlighted his ability to adapt and bat with responsibility under pressure. When he came in at nine for two, after a marginally delayed start due to a glitch in the sight-screen, the 21-year-old looked composed and played a perfect foil to the confident Jalaj Saxena (69 off 88).
Saxena got used to the seaming deliveries to play a stroke-filled innings, containing 11 fours and one beautiful six over fine-leg off Samiullah Beigh.
Saxena, the import from Madhya Pradesh, and Samson put up a 97-run partnership after Samiullah and Ram Dalay Punia claimed Bhavin Thakker and Rohan Prem in consecutive overs.
Samiullah bowled a better length and picked up two more wickets in successive overs to put Kerala in a spot of bother prior to lunch. Saxena pulled one to Pranav Gupta at fine leg, while Sachin Baby misjudged a fuller delivery to lose his middle stump.
Kerala lost two more wickets in the middle session as Robert and Iqbal Abdullah edged Umar Nazir and Ram Dayal respectively to wicketkeeper Puneet Bisht.
A determined Samson did not allow the solid third wicket stand to go waste. He applied himself and contributed sedately in two minor partnerships before building another sizeable one, worth 75 runs, with an impressive Monish K. for the seventh wicket.
Parvez Rasool, who led Jammu and Kashmir in the absence of Mithun Manhas due to the latter's unavailability owing to his wife's health issues, used his bowlers well but could not distract a resolute Samson.
Samson, who recently had a good outing for India 'A' on its tour of Australia, showcased his compact defence and gathered runs through his excellent footwork, use of wrists and superb placement. He ran well between wickets and chose the onside to collect most of his 19 boundaries. However, he never lost a chance to exhibit his flair on the off.
Samson's stunning straight drive against Samiullah had class written all over it. A magnificent six using his feet off left-arm spinner Aamir Aziz to the sight-screen was another gorgeous shot that underscored his class.
The diligent youngster drove Aziz past mid-off for a four to reach his seventh century. “I rate this knock among my top performances. This is one of my cleanest centuries,” said Samson, dropped off Ram Dayal on 129.
Samiullah bowled with a lot of heart and had Monish caught in the slips to bag his fourth wicket. His pace partners, Ram Dayal and Nazir, as well as off-spinner Rasool bowled tight lines and did not give an impression that the team from the troubled state hardly got any chance to practice together.
Ranji Trophy: Results: Day 1
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