TN's Prasanna hits ton on UP's day
Tamil Nadu 258 for 7 (Prasanna 104*, Aparajith 60, Crist 54*) v Uttar Pradesh
Beside one of the sightscreens at the Bhamashah stadium, there is a large billboard titled 'The pride of Meerut' with pictures of Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Uttar Pradesh were without those two bowlers, who can be devastating with the new ball, but their absence was hardly felt as RP Singh and debutant Amit Mishra combined to reduce the big-name Tamil Nadu batting to 20 for 4. That too, after Tamil Nadu chose to bat.
The curator, Ravindra Chauhan, suggested the early assistance could have been due to an easterly wind this morning, which helps retain the moisture in the track, unlike the westerly which prevailed over the past week. Whatever the reason, the several hundred schoolchildren who filled the stands early on had plenty to shout about in the first hour.
Right off the first ball of the match, RP had Abhinav Mukund lbw. S Badrinath fell on the first ball of RP's second over, as Mohammad Kaif offered a reminder of his fielding abilities with a sharp low catch in the slips. Another athletic take, this time by Arish Alam at gully, sent back Dinesh Karthik. The other Tamil Nadu batsman who has won an India cap, M Vijay, fared no better, done in by an incutter during debutant seamer Mishra's first over. All three of UP's frontline quicks - RP, Mishra and Imtiaz Ahmed - worked up decent pace, and weren't shy of slipping in the odd bouncer.
They posed a stiff challenge to the upcoming Aparajith. The hype around Aparajith has increased this season, as he has reeled off two doubles and two other hundreds in his previous five first-class matches. With all the other heavyweights of the Tamil Nadu batting dismissed, this was a test as much of Aparajith's temperament as his technique.
He responded with an innings which is unlikely to go down as his most fluent, but showcased his composure in a difficult situation. Though there were plenty of plays-and-misses, and a caught-and-bowled reprieve from Piyush Chawla, he soldiered on to 60 and put on a century stand with Tamil Nadu's hero of the day, Prasanna.
Prasanna has been around on the domestic circuit for nearly a decade without quite making a big name for himself. This was only his second century since December 2006, but like his previous one in the 2011-12 semi-final against Mumbai, it came when his team desperately needed it. He was cautious early on against the quicks, leaving plenty of deliveries, and only opened out when Chawla bowled some erratic legspin.
There were doubts about whether he would he would get to his century as Aparajith was dismissed with him still some way away from three figures. The tail stuck around though, and after a few nervy moments, he poked the ball towards point and yelled for the single to bring up his fourth first-class hundred.
Still, Tamil Nadu looked set to be bowled out for a score around 200 till teenager Aswin Crist swung his bat around against the second new ball to pick up a bunch of boundaries on a sluggish outfield. They were 216 for 7 when the new ball was taken, as soon as it was available, and then hit 42 off the final 10 overs. Crist got to half-century, and his 79-run unbroken partnership for the eighth wicket with Prasanna took some of the sheen off what was still UP's day.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo