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Shardul century overshadows Sai Kishore’s 6-wicket haul

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Mumbai, March 3: Shardul Thakur’s sizzling 109 and Tanush Kotian’s unbeaten 74 offset R Sai Kishore’s six-wicket haul, putting Mumbai in command by powering to a 207-run first-innings lead over Tamil Nadu on the second day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal in Mumbai on Sunday. Thakur’s sensational counterattacking hundred, featuring 13 fours and four sixes from a mere 104 balls, pulled Mumbai out of doldrums after they were reduced to 106 for seven at one stage.
At stumps, Mumbai were 353 for 9 at stumps against TN’s first innings’ 146, with Sai Kishore causing the maximum damage.
Sai Kishore (6/97) ran through a chunk of Mumbai’s batting line-up, while Shreyas Iyer (3) fell to pacer Sandeep Warrier as Tamil Nadu levelled up with the hosts for the first time in the game.
But Thakur launched a stunning onslaught, putting each of Tamil Nadu bowlers under severe pressure while forging vital partnerships along the way to take Mumbai far ahead in the game.
Thakur teamed up with Hardik Tamore (35) for a crucial 105-run stand for the eighth wicket and took Mumbai further ahead in the company of Kotian, adding another 79 runs for the ninth wicket.
Using his blade to perfection, Thakur was adroit with his hands to pierce gaps at will and did not miss out clearing the field with disdain four times for maximums — one of which also brought up his maiden century across formats.
Thakur, who also struggled with an ankle-related issue along the way, finally fell to Kuldeep Sen (2/65) in the third session, which brought the pair of Kotian and Tushar Deshpande together again after their heroics in the last match. Coming off a 232-run stand for the 10th wicket in the previous match, Kotian and Deshpande picked from where they left off to put on another 63-run unbeaten stand for the 10th wicket.
With Deshpande (17 not out) joining him much later in his innings, Kotian excelled in this innings like a specialist batter, cracking 10 fours from 109 balls to get to 74 not out.
If it were not for yet another rearguard from their tailenders, who shone in the quarterfinal as well, Mumbai would not have ended the day’s play with a massive lead, for most of their key batters cut a sorry figure.
On a cloudy morning with breeze sweeping across the field here at the BKC Ground, Sai Kishore’s decision to open the bowling in conditions conducive to seamers raised a few eyebrows.
But the Tamil Nadu skipper and leading wicket-taker this Ranji Trophy only validated his move with relentless pressure on the Mumbai batters, delivering a superb 17-6-28-4 in the first session, and took a break only after sending down 22 overs at a stretch.
After nightwatchman Mohit Avasthi (2) was stumped, Sai Kishore ended his counterpart Ajinkya Rahane’s 67-ball vigil for a mere 19 (2x4s) by getting him caught at the first slip.
Rahane strode out confidently to defend on the front foot but only to have the ball kissing the outside edge and being collected by Baba Indrajith at the first slip.
Mumbai’s woes compounded when Iyer, pounded by lack of runs and loss of central contract, was cleaned by Tamil Nadu pacer Warrier for a mere three.
But Musheer (55 off 131 balls, 6x4s) continued to take giant strides, shouldering the responsibility of getting runs for his side from the other end.
The 18-year-old also made no retorts when Tamil Nadu fielders, both in front and behind him, tried to unsettle him.
However, a lapse in concentration saw Musheer’s innings ending prematurely when his backfoot was caught ‘on line’ at the crease with N Jagadeesan quick in taking off the bails. (PTI)

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