Struggling Tamil Nadu made to follow on
Tamil Nadu 226 (Karthik 75, Prasanna 58, Awana 4-53, Suyal 3-76) & 2 for 0 trail Delhi 555 for 4 dec by 327 runs
Tamil Nadu went into the final day of their Ranji Trophy match against Delhi in the worst possible situation: following on at the Feroz Shah Kotla, against a bowling attack that already has first-innings points in its pocket. Chasing Delhi's total of 555, Tamil Nadu were all out for 226, astonishingly losing their last six wickets for only 39 runs, all after tea. At stumps, Tamil Nadu went off at 2 for 0 in their second innings.
It was an excellent day for Delhi in the field, the bowlers making the most of conditions in the first session, producing a tight and disciplined performance in the second, and then cleaning up the Tamil Nadu's first innings shortly before stumps.
Along the way, they were helped by some erratic shot selection by the Tamil Nadu batsmen, with wickets falling off the first ball of the morning and the first ball after tea; first, the well-settled overnight batsman Baba Aparajith didn't want to waste time settling in again nor did R Prasanna, after he had seized the title of swashbuckler from his partner Dinesh Karthik. Both batsmen were caught in the slip cordon: Aparajith, trying to cut Pawan Suyal, by Shikhar Dhawan at second slip and Prasanna slashing at Rajat Bhatia, trying to break free after being choked for runs all through the second session. Prasanna and Dinesh Karthik had put up 108 runs for the fifth wicket off 214 balls, the best and perhaps only significant partnership in the Tamil Nadu innings.
After three wickets fell in the morning session, Tamil Nadu had needed mammoth stands to give themselves a chance of trying to go past Delhi's first-innings score. It had taken four centuries from the Delhi batsmen to get to their total of 555; when S Badrinath fell nicking the nagging Sumit Narwal to keeper Puneet Bisht, the demands on Karthik and Prasanna became enormous. They started the second session with 21 runs in the first two overs, but Delhi's bowlers then moved in; not with heavy leg-side fields but the tight lengths and unwavering lines around off-stump.
The second session ended up being far from entertaining, with only 77 runs coming in 26 overs. Under the growing listlessness, Delhi's bowlers' pushed to bottle up the runs. Bhatia, coming in to bowl his brand of seam-up, sent down maiden after maiden in an 11-over spell. He conceded nine in the six overs in which the batsmen were able to get the ball past the fielders in the ring.
Bhatia got Prasanna the first ball after tea and Karthik became Vikas Mishra's only wicket all day, a stumping that could be called, depending on which side you were on, unlucky or lucky. Kartik rushed out against Mishra, the bowler held the ball back and then fired it in, Bisht almost made a meal of the stumping but was fortunate to have the ball hit his body and go onto the stumps. Tamil Nadu's tail couldn't hang around; certainly not after Suyal and Parvinder Awana got a chance to bowl with the new ball. Between them they bowled just under nine overs with the new ball, conceding 17 runs and cleaning out the last four batsmen.
This had been Delhi's match from the first morning, right from the time they were given the surprising gift of being sent in to bat after Tamil Nadu won the toss. Their batsmen have racked up partnerships and runs, and their bowlers put in the most dramatic of efforts. Now they have an outright win dangling like a carrot in front of them, going into the final day's play.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo