Skipper saves the day for AP

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Mathew Varghese
(Sorry, this article is dated. We will get out of the time machine soon!)

“It is definitely one of my best knocks,” said Y. Venugopal Rao after his unbeaten 105 on Monday saved Andhra Pradesh from losing the Ranji Trophy tie against Tamil Nadu at the MA Chidambaram stadium, Chepauk. The AP skipper had made a duck in AP’s first innings, but stood up to the task when his team faced the challenge of a follow-on after conceding a 319 run lead following a disappointing first innings performance.

Overnight on 79/1, AP were reduced to 152/5, left-arm seamer Ramadoss Naresh picking up two wickets. Staying at the wicket was crucial for AP’s cause, and both Rao and new batsman Chandramouli Prasad took up the responsibility. A 102-run partnership ensued, but more importantly they denied TN a wicket for 31.1 overs.

Unfortunately, Prasad fell to a rash shot off Rajamani Jesuraj; Hemang Badani’s catch giving the fast bowler his second scalp of the innings. Prasad departed for 55, adding to his near run-a-ball 31 in AP’s first innings. TN now only needed four wickets with 34.5 overs to go, including the 15 mandatory overs. However, Rao got good support at the other end, stringing good partnerships with Syed Sahabuddin and Mohammed Faiq.

AP did not just defend till the close of play; Rao despatched the bad deliveries especially the ones pitched short outside the off stump with sheer disdain. Naresh got the breakthrough once again for TN, dismissing Sahabuddin. Later, off-spinner Aashish Kapoor was brought on by TN skipper S Badrinath to replace Naresh, and he accounted for Faiq. Kapoor bowled a middle and leg line; and the one that got Faiq was the only delivery that was reminiscent of a crumbling fourth day Indian track. Badrinath persisted with Kapoor for nine overs till the close of play; but the 35-year old former India bowler did not manage to recreate the odd bounce that got rid of Faiq.

Time was running out for Tamil Nadu to earn full four points. AP No. 10 D Kalyankrishna blocked every delivery that came his way in the mandatory overs though the TN seamers V Yomahesh and Jesuraj could have done better by making him play more. Yomahesh did get an edge from Kalyankrishna, but substitute R Prasanna missed a sharp chance at second slip. The AP fast bowler faced a few other close shouts, but remained unbeaten till close scoring 1 off 39 balls.

Rao hit Kapoor over long-on for a six off the penultimate ball of the 14th mandatory over to bring up his century. The match was a done draw by then and both captains agreed to call off further play.

TN would have been disappointed with the result; considering they were the favourites and more so with the position they had got themselves into. But their bowlers failed to apply themselves to the situation and were guilty of bowling too many short deliveries. Even skipper and star batsman Badrinath could be accused of not attacking enough; with a fine leg being employed even when the tailenders were on strike. The fielding side looked lackadaisical even when they could have pressed for the win.

“We did not finish the job. We have no excuses,” was all that TN coach and former Indian opening bat WV Raman had to say. Rao, the star of the match, said that he was expecting more yorkers and said that his plan was “to stick on to the wicket as soon as possible.” Rao said he was hoping that AP would do better in the coming matches.

Tamil Nadu picked up two points from the game by virtue of their first innings lead. Both TN and AP are currently on four points after two matches. AP take on Saurashtra in Rajkot while TN play host to Haryana in the next round of four-day matches starting on December 12.

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