With 6-wicket haul on final day, Ajith helps TN bow out in style
CHENNAI: A day after his “role model”, Saurashtra stand-in captain Ravindra Jadeja, finished with an eight-wicket match haul, Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner S Ajith Ram went one step further, bowling the home team to a 59-run victory in the Ranji Trophy Elite Group B clash that concluded on Friday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here.
Ajith ended with match figures of 9/93 after his six-wicket haul in the Saurashtra second innings – 6/54 in 21 overs – ensured Tamil Nadu bowed out of the premier red-ball tournament in style.
The 24-year-old Ajith, who had bagged the ‘Man of the Match’ award in the home victory over Assam last week, clinched the prize for a second successive game, thanks to his top-notch performance against Saurashtra on the fourth and final day.
Set a winning target of 266, the visitor could muster only 206 despite opener Harvik Desai’s (101 off 205 balls, 10 fours, 3 sixes) battling knock in demanding Chepauk conditions.
Saurashtra (26 points from 7 matches), which had achieved quarter-final qualification well in advance, topped the group in spite of defeat while Tamil Nadu (21 points from 7 matches), riding on back-to-back wins on home turf, finished fifth in the pool.
Ajith and Harvik hogged the limelight on the last day as they were the best performers by a country mile. Ajith began his act by knocking over nightwatchman Chetan Sakariya’s (1) leg-stump and then trapped Sheldon Jackson (1) leg before wicket to leave the touring team at a precarious score of 18 for four in the 12th over.
After receiving assistance from left-arm spin-bowling partner Manimaran Siddharth (3/71), who brought an end to the 89-run fifth-wicket partnership between Harvik and Arpit Vasavada (45 off 88 balls, 3 fours), Ajith took the prized scalp of his idol Ravindra Jadeja (25).
The India all-rounder attempted an audacious reverse sweep on an unpredictable track and it cost him dear, with the edge travelling to first slip, where Baba Aparajith was positioned.
“I used to envy him (Ravindra Jadeja) a lot. Chennai Super Kings plays here and we had our camps here as well. From that time onwards (in the past), I wanted to become like [Ravindra] Jadeja. Picking his wicket was something I never dreamed of. It happened (on Friday) and I am thankful for it. It was really special for me,” said Ajith.
Ajith then picked up three lower-order wickets – Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (5), Samarth Vyas (2) and Prerak Mankad (2) – in a trice to put the host within touching distance of a win. Pacer Sandeep Warrier (1/5) returned to the attack in the 69th over and completed the formalities as Harvik inside-edged a delivery onto the stumps.
As for the tourist’s lone warrior Harvik, it looked as though he was batting on a completely different pitch. The Saurashtra opening batter blasted three sixes in the ‘V’, third of which helped him complete a ton in stunning fashion. Harvik kept the tourist interested, but ran out of partners and could not get the job done single-handedly at the end.
BRIEF SCORES: Tamil Nadu 324 & 133 bt Saurashtra 192 & 206 in 68.2 overs (Harvik Desai 101, Arpit Vasavada 45, S Ajith Ram 6/54, Manimaran Siddharth 3/71)
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