Rangarajan six-for gives Tamil Nadu first win
Tamil Nadu 233 (Karthik 92, Yusuf 6-84) and 59 for 1 (Arun Karthik 33) beat Baroda 162 (Mistry 68, Shah 4-49) and 129 (Mistry 64, Rangarajan 6-46) by 9 wickets
Tamil Nadu's campaign received a timely boost in the form of their first victory of the season, over Baroda in Chennai. A career-best five-wicket haul from the 24-year-old offspinner Malolan Rangarajan swerved a match that was snailing towards a draw and helped the hosts climb to fourth place on the Group B table. With three games left in the preliminary stage, two of which would be at home, Tamil Nadu's bid for the Ranji crown is back on track.
A strong overnight position of 73 for 1 was squandered by a tame batting effort by the visitors, characterised by a reluctance to keep the score moving. Dhiren Mistry accumulated his second half-century of the match and looked rather comfortable for his 230 balls, but even he was unable to manoeuvre the spinners around.
On a pitch that had lent assistance to the spinners since the first session of the game, Malolan and left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas were allowed to settle into a rhythm and their impact was decisive. After the half-century partnership between Mistry and Aditya Waghmode, none of the Baroda batsmen were able to post a double-figure score. Tamil Nadu's cause was helped by a change of ball in the 48th over, and the spinners seemed to extract better turn and bounce with the replacement.
"The wicket was slower than [in] the first innings," said Malolan, who was adjudged Man of the Match. "[It] wasn't turning as much and the bounce was a little on the lower side. We had to work a bit harder and get our plans right. It was just a coincidence that the wickets came (after the ball-change)."
Srinivas produced the match-turning over as he claimed two wickets in two balls. Abhimanyu Chauhan's angled bat became his undoing as he steered a fullish ball to slip. Yusuf Pathan bagged a golden duck as he edged one that drifted in and turned away. Abhinav Mukund at first slip took a smart catch, diving to his left and Baroda slumped to 116 for 5.
The tail flailed around and walked back, while at the other end Mistry, made little attempt to secure some quick runs. When he did decide to go for it, he chose the wrong ball and reached out to loft a turning ball and was caught at cover.
"It wasn't a conscious decision to bat cautiously," Mistry said. "Our main goal in the morning was to see off the first session and build upon that from thereon. The major factor for our defeat was our shot selection."
Chasing a modest target of 59, the Tamil Nadu openers were markedly more aggressive in their approach. Arun Karthik employed the sweep shot early and to great effect en route to picking up five fours. The search for singles wasn't troublesome either as the batsmen hit to the fielders at the 30-yard circle and took them on. Chugging along at nearly four-an-over, a 10-wicket win and seven points seemed only a matter of time, but Arun Karthik fell lbw to Ketul Patel. A small consolation for Baroda, who look all but out of the competition, with three losses in five games.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo