Following a sedate start by the top three, the home side’s middle-order batters fell like a pack of cards against Mumbai in the post-lunch session on the third day of the Ranji Trophy 2019-20 contest. At the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Monday, Tamil Nadu had a dreadful 15-over period, where it lost five wickets for a modest 17 runs.
Ravichandran Ashwin (32 batting) and R Sai Kishore (17 batting), frontline bowlers by designation, were forced to do the rescue operation with their blades. The right-left combination came up with a creditable effort after tea, engineering an unbroken eighth-wicket partnership of 54 runs.
Had it not been for the duo’s determination, Tamil Nadu wouldn’t have ended the Day Three’s play at 249 for seven. But, the host is still 239 runs behind Mumbai’s mammoth first innings score of 488. Vinayak Bhoir (1/26) scalped a wicket while Shams Mulani (2/59), Tushar Deshpande (2/47) and Royston Dias (2/34) equally shared the rest of the spoils.
Beginning the proceedings on the overnight total of 66 without loss, the host was dealt a body blow right at the start, losing Abhinav Mukund (58) to medium fast bowler Deshpande. The left-handed opening batsman, who made a breezy half-century on Sunday, edged an incoming delivery to Jay Bista, positioned at the slip cordon.
Mukund’s partner L Suryapprakash (41), resuming on 11, kept his approach simple – to go past the ropes or eat up deliveries. Of the 41 runs he got off 169 deliveries before gifting his breakthrough to Bhoir, 30 came from boundaries via six fours and one maximum. In at No.3, Kaushik Gandhi (60) capitalised on the life given to him at one.
The 29-year-old, whose fifty included six fours and a six, was rewarded for his neat stroke-making on the slow surface. However, things went downhill thereafter for Tamil Nadu that was rattled by Deshpande and Mulani’s devastating spells. Bowling in tandem, the pair stemmed the run stream after the 40-minute lunch break.
The host lost three wickets in quick succession as the scoresheet remained stagnant at 178. Captain Baba Aparajith (14) was the first to leave after being trapped leg before in the 75th over. It was double delight for the visitor in the following over, with Gandhi and Pradosh Ranjan Paul (0) bowing down to left-arm orthodox bowler Mulani.
The ball wasn’t in the compass of Gandhi, who came down the wicket and allowed Mumbai keeper Aditya Tare to pounce on it. Southpaw Pradosh had a forgettable outing as he couldn’t prevent the stumps from getting dislodged at nought. Baba Indrajith (6) and the fit-again Dinesh Karthik (7) also returned to the dressing room soon.
The former was dismissed in the final ball of the 83rd over by Dias, thanks to a one-handed blinder from Bista, who with his helmet stood at an advanced second slip spot. After the departure of the last recognised batsman Karthik, Ashwin and Sai Kishore steadied the ship, adding more than 50 runs in about 33 overs. If Tamil Nadu is to eke out an unlikely first innings advantage, it will have to deliver a monumental show on the last day. As of now, the ball is well and truly in
Brief scores: Mumbai (1st innings) 488 all-out in 148.4 overs; Tamil Nadu (1st innings) 249 for 7 in 121 overs (A Mukund 58, L Suryapprakash 41, K Gandhi 60).