Balaji's four gives Tamil Nadu dominant start
L Balaji's 12th first-class four-wicket haul helped Tamil Nadu bowl Assam out for 184 on the opening day at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Assam began cautiously after TN chose to field on a pitch that had plenty of carry, and the openers had seen off 13.3 overs, adding 24 before debutant seamer Sunil Sam made the first breakthrough. Dheeraj Jadhav, Assam's top-scorer last season, slashed and edged to the wicketkeeper. Sridharan Sriram, the left-hand batsman who hails from TN, could not make an impact against his old team-mates, and became Balaji's first victim when he cut to gully. Parvez Aziz played offspinner R Ashwin with confidence and had moved to 36 with six boundaries. He also fought through a stream of bouncers before offering S Badrinath a catch off Balaji's bowling. Badrinath had to dive low and to his left at second slip to take the chance. When star import Amol Muzumdar departed for a duck, nicking Balaji behind, TN sensed an opportunity to shoot Assam out for a low score. The spinners Aushik Srinivas and R Ashwin nipped three wickets between them, while a couple of run-outs added to Assam's woes as they stumbled to a score under 200. TN's openers Abhinav Mukund and Srikkanth Anirudha then batted with determination to take their side to 21 without loss by the close.
Wasim Jaffer purred along to his 40th first-class century, while Rohit Sharma missed his ninth by seven runs as Mumbai launched their title defence by scoring 340 for 7 on the opening day at the Bandra Kurla Complex against Saurashtra. On a day that would have left both sides reasonably satisfied, there were several important individual performances that stood out. Dropping himself to No. 3 in the absence of the injured middle-order bulwark Ajinkya Rahane, Jaffer carried on his penchant for plundering domestic hundreds, after Jayesh Odedra's double-strike. At the other end, with the selectors' eye on his fitness and temperament, Rohit launched himself into the Saurashtra attack with typical elegance. His 93 came off 86 balls, with 14 fours and two sixes, leading Mumbai to 252 for 2 and in sight of a towering score. Then came the third most significant performance of the day, from another India hopeful. Ravindra Jadeja has had his place in the Indian questioned by all and sundry, and he responded with an incisive spell with the game threatening to run away. He dismissed Sharma, Abhishek Nayar and Ramesh Powar, leading Saurashtra's resurgence in the evening session and left them with an opportunity to finish Mumbai's innings early on the second day.
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Opener Arindam Das' seventh first-class century was the highlight of the opening day at the Feroz Shah Kotla as Bengal posted a dominant 313 for 2 against a Delhi attack that struggled for incisiveness. Ten months after the abandonment of an ODI due to an underprepared pitch, the Kotla track was at its benign best as Das settled down for a big innings, in Shreevats Goswami's company. The pair raised 133 in 37.2 overs, giving the hosts a taste of what was to come before Goswami fell for 68, the first of Mithun Manhas' two wickets. Abhishek Chowdhury was more cautious, but it did not affect Bengal's speed of scoring as Das shifted gears upwards. Manoj Tiwary who came in at Chowdhury's exit kept the momentum going with an unbeaten 47 off 80 balls. At the other end, Das, kicked on after reaching his ton and finished the day unbeaten on 150. His knock included 19 fours, and he looked good for more when stumps were drawn.
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Yuvraj Singh managed a half-century but, like the rest of his top-order mates, was guilty of throwing away a start, as Uttar Pradesh held Punjab to 279 for 6 on the opening day at the Bhamashah Stadium in Meerut. Sarul Kanwar began in aggressive fashion after Punjab chose to bat, striking eight fours in his run-a-ball 42. However, after an opening stand worth 56, Praveen Kumar removed Kanwar and Ravi Inder Singh off successive overs, exposing Punjab's middle order. Uday Kaul rebuilt in Yuvraj's company, the pair raising 61 for the third wicket before a mini-collapse reduced Punjab to 143 for 5. Karan Goel rose to the occasion, and along with Vishwas Bhalla, lifted his side to respectability with a 72-run alliance. Piyush Chawla prised out Bhalla, but Harmeet Singh counterattacked with four fours and a six in his 29, taking Punjab to stumps along with Goel, who was unbeaten on 56.
Gujarat's top order gave a good account of themselves without managing to dominate the Railways attack, leaving both sides on par at stumps on an attritional opening day at the Karnail Singh Stadium. Every Gujarat batsman got a start in a score of 234 for 4, but only one managed to reach fifty, while most bowlers gained respect without making enough entries in the wickets column. Jay Desai and Priyank Kirit Panchal ground out an opening stand of 58 in 28 overs before exiting on the same score. Niraj Patel and Parthiv Patel showed more urgency in a stand of 74, but both failed to kick on, as Gujarat found themselves unable to reap the rewards of solidity. That partnership, however, eased the pressure on the remaining batsmen. Bhavik Thaker, coming in at No. 5, did better than the top four, ensuring he crossed his half-century and remained unbeaten at stumps. His innings included two fours and a six off consecutive deliveries from Faiz Fazal. Debutant Pratharesh Parmar held up the other end with an undefeated 28 and the pair will want to push ahead on the second day. Parthiv praised his batsmen for their effort. "The wicket was green and two-paced," he told the Hindu. "So, it was a challenge to play the first 30 overs and we did it."
Opening bowler Basanth Mohanty completed his sixth first-class five-wicket haul as Orissa bullied Baroda, reducing them to 99 for 9 on a curtailed day at the Barabati Stadium. After overnight rains delayed the start by half an hour, Orissa captain Shiv Sundar Das had no hesitation in bowling after winning the toss in damp, seamer-friendly conditions. Baroda's batsmen, star players Yusuf Pathan and Ambati Rayudu included, had no answers against Basanth in an innings where only three batsmen managed to enter double-figures. Things could have been far worse for Baroda if not for Rakesh Solanki's unbeaten 44. Debasis Mohanty, Alok Chandra Sahoo and Dhiraj Singh complemented Basanth's efforts with a wicket apiece as Baroda derailed in shocking fashion.
Himachal Pradesh's bowlers contained Haryana on the opening day, as the visitors crawled to 204 for 4 in Dharmasala. After choosing to field, the hosts started well, with seamer Jitendra Mehta removing Nitin Saini for five, but wickets were hard to come by after that. Rahul Dewan held vigil for 40 watchful overs, his 46 pushing the score to 88, before he perished against Ashok Thakur. Manav Sharma and Hemang Badani carried on in the same vein, their partnership of 74 spanning nearly 30 overs before Manav fell four short of his half-century. Badani brought up his 37th first-class fifty, and the first for Haryana, but more importantly, ensured he was unbeaten till the end.