Chawla century powers UP ahead
Uttar Pradesh 411 for 7 (Chawla 114*, Prashant 73, Dwivedi 70, Dagar 69) lead Tamil Nadu 297 (Prasanna 118, Aparajith 60, Crist 58, Imtiaz 4-79) by 114 runs
Piyush Chawla was on 9, and Uttar Pradesh were still 81 away from Tamil Nadu's score when Abhinav Mukund put down a fairly straightforward chance at point. On a day when Tamil Nadu's bowling looked listless, and opportunities were rare, their fielding had to be spot-on. It wasn't, and Chawla capitalised to reach his fifth first-class hundred as UP took a big lead on the third day in Meerut.
The wicketkeeper-batsman Eklavya Dwivedi and debutant Amit Mishra were part of the supporting cast as Tamil Nadu were steadily demoralised on a day the visitors began with a realistic chance of getting the lead. UP had started 126 in the arrears, with five wickets in hand, and it was expected that the first hour would prove the most challenging. Instead, a sunnier morning than usual reduced the moisture, and possibly the venom, in the track and UP's batsmen weren't troubled much.
Ahead of the match, Chawla had spoken about the importance of the lower order scoring runs, and they have certainly delivered. Even when the Nos. 7-9 were batting, Tamil Nadu's bowlers barely threatened. After tea, by when Tamil Nadu had already conceded the lead, there were none of the "come on, boys" or similar commonly heard shouts of encouragement, as a deflated side couldn't find the breakthrough.
Chawla was quick to charge and drill the ball down the ground against the spinners, and when they tried to stifle him with a legstump line, he countered with paddle-sweeps. He was at ease against the quicks as well, highlighted by an authoritative pull against a short ball from Sunil Sam for four.
His 97-run stand for the seventh wicket with Dwivedi was pivotal in UP securing the lead. It was a crucial innings for Dwivedi, who was playing his first Ranji match of the season and is scrapping with the more experienced Amir Khan for the keeper's spot. Amir has been around since 2004, but lost his place towards the end of the previous season to Dwivedi, at least partly due to a lack of runs. Amir has only one first-class half-century since 2009 but was back in the side for the start of this season, only to lose his place after two matches.
If it is runs UP want from their keeper, Dwivedi has filled the job requirements. He scored plenty of runs with dabs and steers behind point, but brought up the lead with a stylish hit beyond long-on and out of the ground.
After the lead was taken, the timing of the declaration would have indicated the extent of UP's ambition, whether they were confident of pushing for a win or they were satisfied with three points. Chalwa reached his century with a six over midwicket with more than half an hour of play remaining, but he and Mishra, who showed far more composure than the usual No. 9, continued to inflict punishment on the Tamil Nadu bowlers.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo