A well-paced hundred by Vishnu Vinod and a hostile spell of pace bowling from Basil Thampi put Kerala in an excellent position to force a win in its Ranji Trophy Group A match against Gujarat on Saturday.
Gujarat ended the third day at 128 for five – a lead of 77 -- at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium. An unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 44 between debutant Umang Kumar and Karan Patel has just about managed to keep the former champion in the game.
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Thampi may have taken only two wickets, but his fiery spell broke the back of the Gujarat top-order and lifted the spirit of the fielding side. He bowled with pace, got the ball to swing menacingly into the batters and didn’t allow them to breathe easy. It was superb bowling.
Gujarat, after conceding a lead of 51, had begun its second innings confidently though, with openers Saurav Chauhan and Kathan Patel putting on 43 inside 10 overs. But Saurav went unwisely for a sweep against off-spinner Jalaj Saxena and was bowled.
In the next over, Thampi had Kathan leg before with a ball that came in sharply. Then in the last over before tea, M.D. Nidheesh, the seamer who took five wickets in the first innings, removed Gujarat’s captain Bhargav Merai, who too was adjudged leg before.
Gujarat suffered a blow in the first over after tea too, as Manprit Juneja was trapped in front by Thampi with a ball that travelled quite some way in. If the batting side was hoping that wicketkeeper Het Patel, who had hit 185 in the first innings, would bail it out a second time, it was in for a disappointment. Left-arm spinner Sijomon Joseph had him caught at slip to reduce Gujarat to 84 for five.
Earlier, Vishnu was in sparkling form as he made his second First Class hundred (113, 143b, 15x4, 1x6). He was expectedly aggressive, but he batted sensibly too, knowing well that Kerala, which resumed at 277 for four, depended on him to take the important first innings lead. Left-arm spinner Sidhharth Desai took five for 132 from 39 overs.
Gujarat – 1st Innings: 388
Kerala – 1st Innings:
P. Rahul st sub (Priyesh) b Desai 44, Rohan Kunnummal c sub (Hingrajia) bt Kalaria 129, Jalaj Saxena c Merai b Desai 4, Sachin Baby b Nagwaswalla 53, Vathsal Govind c Karan b Kalaria 25, Vishnu Vinod lbw b Desai 113, Salman Nizar c Saurav b Desai 6, Sijomon Joseph lbw b Desai 4, Basil Thampi c sub (Hingrajia) b Nagwaswalla 15, Edhen Apple Tom c Karan b Nagwaswalla 16, M.D. Nidheesh (not out) 9; Extras (b-14, lb-3, nb-3, w-1) 21; Total (in 107.3 overs): 439
Fall of wickets: 1-85, 2-101, 3-220, 4-249, 5-347, 6-364, 7-372, 8-393, 9-423
Kalaria 15-4-52-2, Gaja 20-0-95-0, Nagwaswalla 22.3-2-102-3, Desai 39-3-132-5, Karan 9-1-37-0, Kathan 3-1-4-0
Gujarat – 2nd Innings: Saurav Chauhan lbw b Jalaj 19, Kathan Patel lbw b Thampi 20, Bhargav Merai lbw b Nidheesh 11, Manpri Juneja lbw b Thampi 6, Het Patel c Rahul b Sijomon 6, Umang Kumar (batting) 25, Karan Patel (batting) 28; Extras (b-4, lb-8, w-1) 13; Total (for five wkts. in 39 overs): 128
Fall of wickets: 1-43, 2-45, 3-59, 4-65, 5-84
Kerala bowling: Nidheesh 10-1-31-1, Thampi 11-3-29-2, Jalaj 6-0-26-1, Edhen 4-0-20-0, Sijomon 8-2-10-1