Spinners check Hyderabad's promising start
On a paata Uppal track, Baroda's spinners absorbed the impact of a 131-run opening stand between Ravi Teja and Daniel Manohar and bounced back to restrict Hyderabad to 220 for 4 by the end of the first day's play. The significance of the spinners, the left-arm-right-arm combo of Rajesh Pawar and Yusuf Pathan, was very crucial in keeping the hosts to that score, after Teja - in keeping with his season form - and Manohar dominated the opening session and set the platform for an imposing first-day's total.
Pawar and Yusuf sent down 52 overs for 107 runs and picked up three wickets to restore parity after the hosts began so well. But it was the other Pathan, Irfan senior, who gave the opening to the spinners by luring Teja to edge a loose drive for 71 from 118 balls. Irfan's first spell read 7-0-35-0, and he recovered from Teja's blitz and got better as the day progressed.
Both Yusuf and Pawar applied the squeeze effectively and Hyderabad could only muster 55 in 32 overs after lunch before losing three more wickets in the last session for 43 runs. Yusuf sent down one miserly over after another, getting some bounce with his quick offspin while Pawar slowed the pace, gave the ball air, and tried to beat the batsmen in flight.
As the day wore on both, Pawar in particular, got it to turn. Manohar was strangled by spin in the second session; he got into trouble on a few occasions, failing to keep his drives down and kept short cover and bowler interested. Pawar finally struck, luring him to drive one back low to his left. The Hyderabad gates were ajar and Baroda broke through.
Mohammad Shakeer, on debut, swaggered in under an old-fashioned floppy hat and tried to live up to the billing of being an attacking batsman. He went for a slog sweep off his first delivery, and missed, but continued to attempt big shots. He swatted an Irfan bouncer, slashed him twice to the deep point boundary and cut Pawar for another four. But it was this same aggression which consumed him, as he top-edged a slog sweep to the wicketkeeper.
Soon Yusuf got one to turn and jump at Arjun Yadav, who stabbed it behind the wicket and Baroda finished the day on top. Earlier, however, it looked a different ball game altogether when Teja unfurled an array of strokes to give a great start to the hosts. He impressed in his 164-minute stay in the middle and is likely to be a very valuable player for Hyderabad in the years to come. He was relaxed at the crease, moving his feet nicely and looked comfortable on front and back foot. He started off with a crisp on-the-up punch off Irfan through mid-off before the bumper barrage began.
Since the comatose pitch offered no swing or seam movement, Irfan decided to change the angle and length for Teja. He went around the stumps and punctuated full-length deliveries outside off with a few bouncers. After Teja nonchalantly pulled a couple to the boundary Irfan deployed an in-out field. A deep square leg was brought in, in addition to fine leg and a short leg. More bouncers came and Teja, mindful of the two catching men, chose to defend.
A couple were fended away to the off side but for the most part he was composed. There was a glimpse of the Hyderbadi wrists too when he late cut Irfan to the third man boundary. He had scored 24 runs from 26 balls in Irfan's first spell and had seized the early advantage for the hosts.
However, twelve balls into the post-lunch session he threw it away as he chased an Irfan delivery that was well outside off and shaping away. Yet again, as eight fifties and one hundred show, he has been dismissed after getting a start. "He has to work on the conversion rate. He has the talent, the shots, brilliant attitude and the future looks really bright," Vivek Jaisimha, Hyderabad's coach, said. "It's up to him how far he can go."
In a game that is likely to be decided by the first-innings lead, Hyderabad could well end up paying for his shot selection.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo