Haryana v Rajasthan, 1st semi-final, Ranji Trophy 2011-12, 1st day January 10, 2012

Game even after day of 18 wickets


Haryana 82 for 8 (Rituraj Singh 5-36) trail Rajasthan 89 (Saxena 32, Harshal 8-34) by seven runs

Eighteen wickets for a measly 171 runs in a single day's cricket could easily suggest that the track on which this panned out had threatened life and limb. All that the Bansi Lal Stadium surface did on the first day of the Ranji Trophy semi-final was to be itself on a biting winter day and with it test batting skills.

Haryana and Rajasthan find themselves locked in a struggle of nerve and application, with only two wickets needed on the second morning to complete the first two innings.

Harshal Patel, the former India Under-19 bowler and current flavour of the season, again produced the best Ranji figures this year - 8 for 34 - as Rajasthan unraveled to 89 all out. Then came Rajasthan's bustling Rituraj Singh taking 5 for 36 and coming close to completely dismantling Haryana's batting, reducing them to 40 for 7. By stumps, they had inched their way 82 for 8, an obdurate 33-run eighth wicket partnership bringing some voice back to local throats and colour back to Haryana's cheeks.

Harshal was in the centre of things yet again, as one half of that partnership with Mohit Sharma. His lone scoring stroke in 20 minutes of batting sent out its own message to his top order. Two steps out to medium-pacer Rituraj and a whip past square leg for four. When Harshal walked back to the dressing room with Mohit, who had spent close to two hours for 16, the applause from their team-mates sounded more fervent than it had for their bowling efforts in the morning.

It was a day when the bowlers on both sides could say they had done all the work. Rajasthan too had come apart at the seams reaching 66 for 9 just after lunch. Gajendra Singh and Sumit Mathur then put up 23 and helped the defending champions reach what only on such an absurd day's cricket could be called a "respectable" total.

Haryana's decision to field may have appeared sagely and bold but turned out to be simple common sense. The dreaded fog was absent and the sun shone. Underneath all the brightness though were conditions made for seam bowling. The gossamer haze of the morning carried with it moisture and the breeze blowing over the ground, some bites of swing. The Bansi Lal Stadium square is built on a rich water table where it doesn't take long to find water nor does it dry out enough in the winter to make life easy for batsmen.

The ball moved laterally off the wicket and swung in the air. It stopped before coming on to the bat, making batting difficult and run scoring demanding. Harshal for his part made sure it wasn't going to be easy for Rajasthan. He scythed through the top order, producing a spell that is simple to describe in clichés about good areas and line and length.

When witnessed though, it was an impressive demonstration of discipline and lung power. He sent down 15 overs of a probing length and let the winter and his familiarity with Lahli do the rest. He said he had needed two overs to warm up and get started, "the ball was not coming out of my hand but I know what Lahli is like. The wicket's always like this in the morning, it helps the seamers, when the dew is gone and the sunlight hits the wicket."

Sunlight and dew may make for poetry on paper but to Rajasthan's most experienced batsmen, Aakash Chopra and Hrishikesh Kanitkar, it spelt a half-hour struggle before they nicked one to the wicketkeeper. Vineet Saxena was the lone frontline batsman for Rajasthan who survived the first session. He had scratched out 32 runs, the day's highest score, but in the second over after lunch he flicked one to square leg.

Until then it had been Haryana's day driven by Harshal, whose 8-40 versus Karnataka in Bangalore had set them up in the quarter-final. They were going to be batting in the second session, when the wicket had at least dried out from the morning. They did not take into account the damage that the new ball could do.

Haryana's top order was trapped somewhere in no man's land: unable to find the defence mechanisms needed to wear off the shine of the new ball or brazenly attempt an all-out attack to challenge the bowlers. Five were gone within eight overs of Rituraj and Pankaj Singh bowling at a good clip and with venom; captain Amit Mishra and Priyank Tehlan's attempts to stitch a stand together fell apart in two overs around tea. Mishra's leading edge off an expansive on-drive found Robin Bisht at point and Tehlan didn't reach the pitch of the ball and looped one to mid-on Pankaj Singh's hands. From 40 for 7, again the bowlers started giving Haryana a chance.

Day one of the Ranji semi-final was very much a bowlers' day. Mohit Sharma had bowled an uninterrupted spell of 15 overs in the Rajasthan innings, Harshal bowled 12 overs on the go. At stumps, Harshal said quite succinctly, "It's not about the wicket settling, it's more about the team settling on the wicket."

In conditions such as these, it would take batsmen of exceptional quality to play the match-defining innings. With three days to spare, that is still awaited.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PRABAKAR on January 11, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    @Satish619chandar - Spot on mate !!! In a test match, its the bowlers who win matches, however the track mite behave...On flat Indian tracks, you have good spinners and the game's in your pocket...On seaming tracks abroad, you have to have good seamers to win matches...Take 20 wickets first and you win the test, let the batsmen score 200 runs or 2000 runs, does not matter...In South Africa, Sreesanth and Harbhajan were simply too good, whereas in England, even if Cook and Co. had failed with the bat, there was no way we were goin to score against Broad, Anderson and Bresnan...Dont think any of the teams would have scored 650 odd for 4/5 against the mighty Windies in the 1970s, simply because the bowlers did not let them....

  • Senthil on January 11, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    @satish619chandar: I agree that it's tough to score in the Green tracks. But for India the problem is surly their Batsman. In the 2nd test I won't blame the Bowlers, who manged to take 20 Aus wickets below 350 on both times. India were 214/2 but All out below 300 says it's India's Batsman Failure rather then Aus had that strong attack. India draw in SA test series becoz Gauti scored 3 Half centuries and Sachin scored 2 Centuries which is not happening in the same kind of tracks now. It's all Batsman failure and dreadful captaincy by Dhoni made India staring at another whitewash. SA batsman failed in one match not keep repeating it, while India taken 21 Innings b/w their last 400 at centurion in 2010 to this 400 in SCG counting all Overseas Innings and you know both 400 plus came in an Innings defeat. Join the lines...

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2012, 7:07 GMT

    I just want to know whether the speed ball counter was in operation in the Rajasthan v/s Haryana match? We have a habit of describing any bowler as Medium pacer or seam bowler and even the genuine fast bowling talent gets listed as medium pacers or a covertly named seamers/pacers. I recall even the bowlers like Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron though bowling at close to 150 kph BEING called medium fast. Without encouraging the fast bowling talent you cannot become a Super Power in Cricket. Is is because of our low self esteem or lack of self confidence? or do we wait for a Foreigner to certify our Bowlers? This is India's major failing in attitudes and strategy. India gives encouragement to Spin Bowlers even if they are not up to the mark in some cases but not to its fast bowlers.

  • Shivam on January 11, 2012, 4:33 GMT

    While talking about the conditions for developing seaming tracks in India,i think we also have places which r suitable for the same.

  • Satish on January 11, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    @ssenthil :Tough to score in green tracks.. For India, the problem is failure of bowlers in favorable conditions.. In first test the conditions where similar to both the teams, bowlers failed to finish off the tail and suffered.. In second test, batsmen failed on a flat track.. We performed decently in last 2 tours to SA where our bowlers came to party and enjoyed favorable conditions.. No batsman is good enough to score big on green tracks unless luck is on is side.. Even SA batsmen failed a s well, Aus batsmen too where both teams grew up playing on those conditions..

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2012, 2:56 GMT

    If you let these domestic batsmen make merry with flat tracks for the whole season and then throw them on a track with life in the semis, this is what you see! When the grass-root level structure is such, what do you expect from India's national batsmen as well? Time to make a variety of sporting pitches like Australia! (Sydney-spin, Adelaide-flat, Perth-bouncy, Brisbane-green, MCG-sporting)!

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2012, 2:10 GMT

    Therez a suggestion to BCCI, they should permit 2-3 overseas players in all Ranji teams on the same auction basis as IPL. Franchisees are spending countless money. Why not BCCI, to make domestic structure strong with Green Surfaces.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2012, 1:55 GMT

    As soon as Ranji is over, he should ve snt to join the India team in Aus, for assisting the team in the net sessions. He should continue there for the ODI series to as an additional member Both the Indian trams and the young lad will gain.

  • Sharath on January 10, 2012, 22:49 GMT

    For a period Mohali used to have bouncy track. Bangalore experimented with sporty tracks for a while. But don't think very many venues have tried to produce them. Until BCCI puts focus n energy into getting each state to develop at least couple of grounds with seaming or bouncy tracks - u can never expect domestic or national cricketers to get better at handling seam n bounce. But oh wait - flat tracks are what BCCI wants to rake in all the IPL n ODI revenues. One culd argue indian conditions (hot, dry) doesn't favor developing seaming tracks but in this day n age and with BCCI's money - that's hardly an excuse.

  • Senthil on January 10, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    That's what we will get when Domestic matches played in a Green top ;-)

    Even when the Senior's are struggling, it's no wonder this Domestic Batsman are struggling. All FTB were exposed in a green track even in Domestic Ranji game itself against bowlers bowling at 120k's. This is how Indian domestic batsman are fared given a green track, seems this match would be over in 2 days. So Indian Batsman need a Flat pitch to score runs even against Domestic Attack :P

    I hope finally somebody happy that now players are exposed to Green track even at Domestic level.

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