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Ranji Trophy: Tamil Nadu leave Maharashtra with a mountain to climb in semis

Tamil Nadu's lower order prolonged Maharashtra's agony and ran them ragged with a display of great resilience to lift the team to 546 in the Ranji Trophy semifinal.

Wisden India Staff |February 27, 2015, 6:26 PM IST
Ranji Trophy: Tamil Nadu leave Maharashtra with a mountain to climb in semis

Tamil Nadu's lower order prolonged Maharashtra's agony and ran them ragged with a display of great resilience to lift the team to an imposing first-innings total of 546 in the Ranji Trophy semifinal on Friday (February 27).

That it took them 226.4 overs over two-and-a-half days to achieve it didn't bother them one bit, as the team management was open in their declaration that there was only a slim possibility of even three innings being completed on this pitch in use at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

With a mountain to climb for a berth in the final, Maharashtra lost the early wicket of Harshad Khadiwale (20) courtesy a peach from L Balaji that nipped back in to send the off stump on a cartwheel. But the combination of a flat deck and an undercooked pace attack helped Maharashtra recover and keep their flame burning as they went into stumps on the third day at 110 for 1 in 32 overs.

In what could be his most important innings yet, Swapnil Gugale exhibited good technique and shot selection to remain unbeaten on 56. The more experienced Chirag Khurana, for whom the disappointment of not putting it past Karnataka in last year's final still lingers on, played like a seasoned veteran, allowing his partner to take centrestage as he slipped into the role of a support cast without a fuss. He ended the day on 36.

As the two batsmen walked off the park, they were all smiles and a firm punch of the gloves indicated a sense of comfort and confidence in their ranks as they attempted to set up a base before climbing the summit.

To Maharashtra's credit, they did all that Tamil Nadu didn't. Balls that were there to be hit were punished, those that ought to be respected were treated cautiously. Occasionally, the edges flew over the slip cordon for boundaries, but it was evident the batsmen weren't going to get into a shell. For close to 90 minutes in the final session, the scoreboard rattled along at over four runs an over before the batsmen added a bit of caution.

While Tamil Nadu have no reasons to be perturbed yet, the manner in which the pitch eased out would cause them some concern. "We knew the track would get better, so that was the reason behind trying to bat them out of the game," said Dinesh Karthik, Tamil Nadu's lone centurion. "There are no cracks either. So you have to be patient and wait for the batsmen to make the error."

Indeed, patience will be the key as Tamil Nadu's long batting line-up displayed despite early slip-ups on Friday. B Indrajith (69) added just one run to his overnight score before edging a drive off Anupam Sanklecha to Khadiwale at first slip in the fifth over. Half an hour later, R Prasanna (72) followed suit as he was drawn forward by a Sanklecha delivery that left him late with Khadiwale once again finishing the job.

Malolan Rangarajan and Aswin Crist then exhibited tremendous game sense in trying to build a partnership. Some uninspiring captaincy from Rohit Motwani, who was happy to sit back and wait for the mistakes instead of attacking the tailenders, helped Tamil Nadu's cause. The eighth-wicket pair added 57 runs. Once Crist played all around a Samad Fallah delivery to be out lbw for 30, Malolan took over and tonked a succession of boundaries to add some finishing touches to the innings, ending on 67 not out.

As things stood, Tamil Nadu were still better placed with all the runs on the board, but another bad session could just induce a hint of panic in their ranks.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 England 4366 104
4 South Africa 3177 102
5 Australia 3672 102
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 9349 260
see more