Bhatt, Yusuf spin Tamil Nadu into trouble
Baroda 33 for 1 (Devdhar 17*) trail Tamil Nadu 125 (Aparajith 44, Yusuf 4-39, Bhatt 4-32) by 92 runs
Baroda's attack thrived on a helpful Chennai pitch, rolling Tamil Nadu over for 125. Aditya Waghmode, the Baroda captain, had called the pitch a "turner" a day before the game and their spinners delivered. Left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt and allrounder Yusuf Pathan found sharp turn and bounce, sharing eight wickets between them. Baroda then capped the day by bringing the deficit under three figures.
Some balls zipped and kicked off the pitch, a few kept low, while others went straight on. There had been some juice for the pacers too amid overcast conditions after rain had delayed the start of play by two hours.
Tamil Nadu lost their captain Abhinav Mukund, who was featuring in his 100th first-class match, in the third over of the day when Sagar Mangalorkar seamed a full ball in and hit the off stump. Murtuja Vahora also showed good discipline, maintaining it in the channel of uncertainty before Baroda's spinners asserted control. Vahora then came back for his second spell and removed a settled Baba Aparajith for 44 before tea. By then, the hosts had lost half their side for 95.
After having blunted the new ball with some stability from opener Bharat Shankar, Aparajith gave it away as he did not get close to the line of a full ball outside off and drove loosely only to nick it behind. Aparajith had taken 22 balls to get off the mark, he then survived a caught-behind appeal on 5, but soon found his groove. He hit a brace of slog-sweeps and pretty-looking drives, none more good looking than the inside-out six over wide long-off off Bhatt's first over. The run-rate, which mostly hovered around one, was nudged past two. At the other end, Bharath, who was reprieved on 9 at second slip, built his innings with an amalgam of dabs and bunts. The 65 run-partnership, the only stand of note in Tamil Nadu's innings, ended when Bharath played back and missed a cut to an arm-ball from Bhatt.
Four balls later, Bhatt bowled Dinesh Karthik for 1 as Tamil Nadu slipped to 68 for 3. The hosts slipped further when newly-appointed vice-captain Baba Indrajith prodded at a biting Yusuf offbreak, inside-edging it to debutant Hitesh Solanki at short leg. Aparajith soon followed his twin and then the lower order folded meekly. The last five wickets tumbled for 30 runs and the last nine for 59. The scorecard, though could have looked a lot worse if not for R Prasanna's resistance.
He showed decent application, pressing forward to smother the spin but got very little support from the other end. He was the last man out, 51 minutes into the final session.
It was not long before spin struck again: left-arm spinner Rahil Shah ripped one through the gate to dismiss Solanki for 5. The ball pitched on a fourth-stump line and spun viciously to tip off the leg bail. Shah almost picked his second wicket when Kedar Devdhar edged him, but replays showed that the ball had not carried to first slip.
Offspinner Malolan Rangarajan employed loopy flight and teased Devdhar and Waghmode but both batsmen hung on till stumps. With the pitch expected to spin more viciously going into the next three days, an outright result looms, according to Aprajith. "There is a lot of assistance and I think a lead of 20 or 30 runs doesn't matter much," he said.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo