Off-spinner Jalaj Saxena showed his Delhi counterparts how to bowl on an unresponsive track with a six-wicket haul, raising visions of an innings victory for Kerala in their first round Ranji Trophy group A encounter here on Wednesday.
On a track where Delhi’s Shivam Sharma, Vikas Mishra and Tejas Baroka disappointed, domestic warhorse Saxena scalped 6 for 63 in 24 overs to skittle out Delhi for 142 in their first innings. This was after Kerala posted a massive 525 for nine declared.
With 383 runs in arrears, Kerala captain Sachin Baby rightly asked Delhi to follow-on and their openers Anuj Rawat (87 off 103 balls) and Kunal Chandela (51 off 103 balls) added 130 for the opening stand.
At stumps, Delhi were 142 for one in their second innings and still needing 241 to avoid what could be a humiliating innings defeat.
It will largely depend on skipper Dhruv Shorey’s temperament and ability to bat through the day and get at least a point.
For Kerala, a lot will depend on spinners Saxena, Karaparambil Monish and Sijomon Joseph to get those nine wickets, with support from fast bowler Sandeep Warrier.
The morning belonged to Saxena as he bowled his fast off-breaks, and the Delhi batsmen didn’t show enough stomach for a fight, which is mandatory after conceding 50 plus runs in the first innings.
Skipper Shorey (19 off 72 balls) put his head down during his partnership of 42 with deputy Nitish Rana (25) but edged one to Robin Uthappa in the slip cordon. Left-hander Rana was also caught by Uthappa off left-arm spinner Monish’s bowling.
After that it was like a procession and a partnership of 37 for the ninth wicket between Navdeep Saini (25) and Vikas Mishra (13) took them to a 140-plus score.
The performance improved in the second innings as former India U-19 captain Anuj Rawat slammed 10 fours and three sixes to show positive intent, while the more orthodox Kunal Chandela was ready to wait for the loose deliveries.
During the end of the day, skipper Baby brought himself to bowl and removed Rawat to bring in some cheer for the home team, which will surely go for the jugular on the final day.
Brief Scores in Ranji Trophy
At Thumba: Kerala 525/9 decl. Delhi 142 in 62.4 overs (Nitish Rana 25, Navdeep Saini 25, Jalaj Saxena 6/63 in 24 overs, Sijomon Joseph 2/7) and 142/1 (Anuj Rawat 87, Kunal Chandela 51).
At Jaipur: Rajasthan 257 and 157/8 (Mahipal Lomror 43, Sanvir Singh 3/28).
Punjab 358 (Mandeep Singh 122, Anmol Malhotra 76, Gurkeerat Mann 68).
At Vijaywada: Andhra 211 and 100/2 (Hanuma Vihari 27, Rajneesh Gurbani 1/38).
Vidarbha 441 (Ganesh Sathish 237, Mohit Kale 82, Cheepurapalli Stephen 5/110)
At Hyderabad: Hyderabad 233 and 239/6 (Tanmay Agarwal 96, Axar Patel 2/44).
Gujarat 313 (Manprit Juneja 94, Rujul Bhatt 65, Mehidy Hassan 4/78).