Abhinav ton leads strong Tamil Nadu performance
Tamil Nadu 268 for 2 (Abhinav 103*, Vijay 62, Badrinath 56) v Saurashtra
When a green pitch was rolled out at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, the intention was to create conditions for a result, more so for the hosts Tamil Nadu, who are searching for their first win of the season. L Balaji lost the toss, though, and Tamil Nadu were put in to bat in overcast conditions in Chennai. However, they were able to avert a top-order wobble and post a commanding 268 for 2. M Vijay made a fluent fifty while his opening partner Abhinav Mukund was the mainstay with an unbeaten century.
Saurashtra were undone by solid application from the Tamil Nadu top order. Vijay and Abhinav were not looking to set off in a hurry. They were patient and gave the first hour to the seamers, who found encouraging swing. There were a few initial plays and misses, but Saurashtra didn't make the batsmen play enough. Oddly, a few deliveries kept low early on but the openers were not daunted by the two-paced nature of the pitch.
The conditions were good practice for Vijay, who will face tougher challenges against the new red ball in South Africa next month. Jaydev Unadkat tried bouncing him out but he fended off the short balls with soft hands. Abhishek Bhatt nearly squared him up with away swing but anything drifting on the pads was stylishly flicked away.
Vijay's footwork was precise in one over from seamer Sandeep Maniar, who pitched too full and was driven for three crisp boundaries past cover. His timing and balance were sound against the spinners as well, as he launched the offspinner Kamlesh Makvana over long-on for two sixes, the first of which reached the second tier.
When it looked like Vijay was set for the long haul, he was given out caught behind off Chirag Jani for 62. Vijay was visibly upset by the decision, and he spread his arms out and trudged back. However, his knock had laid a solid foundation for Tamil Nadu and it allowed Abhinav, who had moved watchfully to 32 at lunch, to take his time to settle in.
Abhinav had survived an edge that dropped short of gully early in his innings, and after lunch too. He was more positive in the second session, using his feet to the spinners, and after tea he punished the spinners when they pitched short with little protection on the boundary. His stand of 93, after the opening partnership worth 97, with the aggressive S Badrinath deflated Saurashtra further. A misfield at cover that went for four summed up their day.
Abhinav was dropped on 97 when he top-edged a pull, only to be put down by Bhushan Chauhan running backwards at square leg. It was some consolation after two doubtful decisions had claimed Vijay and Badrinath. Abhinav reached his 19th first-class century with a flicked boundary wide of midwicket before play was called off due to bad light.
The presence of two set batsmen in Abhinav and the impressive B Aparajith looked ominous for Saurashtra, going in to the second day. The captain Jaydev Shah admitted the pitch had defied their expectations. He said it was on the "slower side" and turned out to be a decent batting track and hoped to keep Tamil Nadu "under 500."
Abhinav said the plan had been to nullify the early advantage for the seamers. "If you noticed, we left a lot of balls early on and rotated the strike more," he said. "I thought their bowlers didn't attack the stumps more. Hopefully, our bowlers would be looking to do that."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo