Home Blog Ranji Trophy semifinal: Tamil Nadu implode, Mumbai seize control | Cricket News

Ranji Trophy semifinal: Tamil Nadu implode, Mumbai seize control | Cricket News


There was so much space between Vijay Shankar’s bat and pad that an ambitious property shark could have raised a sky-kissing tower, the kind which would easily blend with the skyline that surrounds the MCA-BKC Complex where Tamil Nadu tumbled to 146 all out after opting to bat. Mumbai were 45/2 at stumps.

The steel-and-glass structures also dictate the conditions after all. As Mumbai pacer Tushar Deshpande, whose three-wicket haul contributed to Tamil Nadu’s collapse, explained, the tower to the left of the pavilion covers the pitch in its shadow for a couple of hours after the start, leaving the moisture in the wicket for that much longer.

The buildings and the elements played their part but Shankar scripted his own downfall.

For 167 minutes, he hadn’t put a foot wrong. But the first time he went fishing outside off, Shankar edged Shardul Thakur to second slip. Shankar’s immediate reaction after attempting the shot was subtle – a facepalm. He then stood motionless, slapped the bat on his bat and began the long walk back. Then again, it wasn’t the first time a Tamil Nadu batsman was in disbelief upon his dismissal.

N Jagadeesan looked accusingly at the pitch. Pradosh Paul flailed his left arm in frustration. Sai Kishore didn’t hang around to see the damage caused to his stumps. While Baba Indrajith Kishore waited, and waited more, before reluctantly trudging back.

Each one of them, back to the pavilion inside the first hour-and-a-half, had a look of being betrayed by the conditions. But the barebone analysis will reveal it was largely their doing. And arguably, it started with the decision Tamil Nadu made after winning the toss.

Festive offer

Sulakshan Kulkarni, Tamil Nadu’s coach who had coached Mumbai to a Ranji title a few years back, boasted on the match eve that Mumbai cricket was at his ‘fingertips’. That confidence evaporated by the time for the toss and captain Sai Kishore looked indecisive. His eventual decision, to bat first, even surprised Mumbai.

Shankar would later say the batsmen had to ‘respect’ the conditions – damp track that offered a bit of bounce, with a considerable green cover but bald in the full-length region.

But his teammates did everything but that. On a pitch where soft hands and playing close to the body was vital, they did the opposite.

Jagadeesan, for instance, was caught in a no-man’s-land when he committed his front foot to a Mohit Avasthi ball that rose awkwardly from a good length. The batsman offered a feeble defence and Musheer Khan pocketed a sharp catch at short leg.

In the next over, Paul attempted to push a length ball by Tushar Deshpande straight but yet again, the bounce was uncomfortable and he instead ended up hitting right back to Deshpande. Catching practice.

Deshpande, Mumbai’s unlikely hero in the quarterfinal after the Number 11 scored a century to ensure his team progressed into the last-four, continued his fine form. This time, with his primary skill – bowling.

In his following over, Deshpande got one to nip back ever-so-slightly to breach the defence of Sai Kishore, who played across the line. And soon after, he forced Indrajith into play an uppish drive, which was caught at mid-wicket by Tanush Kotian.

Mumbai’s pacers kept testing the defence of Tamil Nadu batsmen by bowling a tight line around the fourth stump, pitching between 6 to 7 yards from the stumps. Deshpande, Avasthi and Shardul Thakur succeeded mostly by drawing them into false shots until they seemingly hit a wall when Shankar and Washington Sundar took guard with half of the TN line-up dismissed.

Shankar and Washington started off briskly by basically playing conventionally and not doing anything stupid. But soon, they’ll go into a shell and the Tamil Nadu innings would move at a crawling pace.

Wary of not losing any more wickets, the duo dead-batted most balls and after the initial burst, did not show any intent. Their partnership saw only 16 singles and after spending nearly hours in the middle and facing almost 32 overs, Shankar and Sundar had taken forward Tamil Nadu’s score by just 48 runs.

Perhaps, that’s what forced Shankar to play a shot he’d avoid during his entire innings. Lest we take the credit away from the bowler for Thakur beautifully set-up his second victim. He kept probing the line just outside off, beating Shankar a couple of times before pitching the last bowl of his over an inch wider and getting it to move a little more.

Shankar, who had middled everything during his blockathon, went for a drive and edged it. A decision he would later rue, standing in the shadows of the towers surrounding the ground and urging his teammates to show more respect.

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