Tamil Nadu declare after Abhinav 240
Saurashtra 12 for 1 trail Tamil Nadu 565 for 8 dec (Abhinav 240, Karthik 133, Unadkat 4-99) by 553 runs
Saurashtra chased leather for the second day in succession, on a pitch that had flattened out considerably at Chepauk. Abhinav Mukund occupied the crease for a marathon 240 and, along with Dinesh Karthik, who scored a brisk 133, took Tamil Nadu to their second first-innings score in excess of 500 this season.
Tamil Nadu came into this game needing six points from a victory to improve their unsatisfactory position at No.6 on the Group B points table. Though they drove themselves to a position from which it would be hard to lose, they batted nearly the entire duration of two days, raising questions of whether they would have enough time to take 20 wickets. Two factors stood in their way of pursuing an outright win - a comatose pitch and Saurashtra's equally imposing batting line-up, which includes seven centurions this season. Given Tamil Nadu's recent struggles in bowling out sides, it appeared as if the strategy was to bat Saurashtra out of the game. The declaration came at 565 for 8, shortly before stumps.
Saurashtra picked up only a wicket in each of the first two sessions, and the only period in which they asserted some control was in the morning. Aided by the new ball, the seamers bowled tighter lines, swung the ball and didn't allow the batsmen easy boundaries. The seamers had an extended run, and spin didn't appear until the morning session drew to a close. Jaydev Unadkat hit the deck hard and had B Aparajith hopping and fending the ball off his gloves to the keeper. It brought an end to a promising knock by Tamil Nadu's best batsman this season.
Abhinav was the pivot around which the Tamil Nadu innings was built. He ended the opening day on 103 and when he departed late in the second afternoon, his stint had lasted 702 minutes. He was restrained in the opening session, often hitting the balls straight to the fielders. He broke the trend when he punched Aarpit Vasavada wide of cover to approach his 150.
Karthik was troubled by Chirag Jani's swing in one over, in which he was beaten three times. Jani was unlucky not to have dismissed Karthik on 25, when Vasavada dropped a regulation catch at first slip immediately after lunch. It was the start of a tough session for Saurashtra, as Karthik belted a century with powerful cuts and pulls. Abhishek Bhatt tried to attack Karthik by bowling short, round the wicket, with two fielders in the deep and a leg gully. Karthik easily negotiated him, though, with the pitch having flattened out further.
The drop really cost Saurashtra as Karthik brought up his 19th first-class century. Karthik was eventually caught off a top edge off Unadkat for 133, having added 240 with Abhinav. Abhinav started to tire as he neared his double-century, jogging the singles. When he had reached his sixth double-century in first-class cricket, Tamil Nadu chose to bat on. The declaration came shortly after Abhinav was bowled sweeping the spinner Kamlesh Makvana.
A weary Saurashtra were jolted early when Sagar Jogiyani was run out after a mixup with his partner Bhushan Chauhan resulted in the pair being stranded at the same end. For Saurashtra, much will depend on Cheteshwar Pujara batting through the third day. With the pitch still good for batting, though, it will be a test for Tamil Nadu to make Saurashtra bat again and justify their decision to put off the declaration.
Karthik said there was no plan to declare earlier in order to give themselves more time to bowl at Saurashtra. "The plan was to bat as long as possible and take a call an hour before the end of the day," he said. "I'd like to think that there is some uneven bounce, with the odd ball keeping low. It's going to be interesting tomorrow."
Unadkat, who finished with 4 for 99, said his side bowled well only in patches. "They [Abhinav and Karthik] were taking singles at will and we were not able to contain them. I was looking to get more aggressive against the batsmen and I used the short ball a lot more."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo