'Our elevation to Super League was no fluke' - Saini
Haryana 293 for 2 (Saini 137*, Sunny Singh 102) v Tamil Nadu
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It's not a surprise that Haryana are in a commanding position at the end of the opening day's play at Rohtak in the Ranji quarter-final. Tamil Nadu, though a traditionally stronger Ranji team, have not been tested in seamer-friendly conditions this season. They have played most of their games at home, on slow wickets, while Haryana have played on tracks such as the one in Rohtak.
Tamil Nadu chose to bowl but Nitin Saini, who has top scored for Haryana this season, added 241 runs with Sunny Singh to push the visitors on the back foot. "Their decision at toss might seem bad but the fact is that they didn't bowl well," Haryana's coach Ashwini Kumar said. "We also would have bowled. They didn't hit a good line and length and our batsman applied themselves superbly."
"The first hour is the most crucial here," Saini said. "We know these home conditions and I knew if we could get the first hour out of the way, we can score decently here." The hour did pose problems but Saini was dropped twice, on 11 and 28, and he went on to an unbeaten 137.
The next testing phase for the batsmen came around the tea interval. Tamil Nadu were on the defensive and started to operate with a 7-2 field and attacked one side of the wicket. "Ashwin started to bowl a leg stump or outside leg line and the mediumpacer bowled well outside off," Saini said. "Both had a 7-2 field and we knew it was a test of our patience. But we knew that the very fact that they were operating like this was because they were frustrated and were on the back foot. That motivated us a great deal and considering this was just the first day, we batted out that period with great patience. I padded away a few and left many deliveries and I am really satisfied that we are in this position."
With Hemang Badani, who might have a point to prove to his former Ranji team, and the rest to follow, Haryana are hopeful of reaching 500. Tamil Nadu's batting has revolved almost entirely on S Badrinath and Abhinav Mukund, and their biggest concern has been the poor batting form of their captain Dinesh Karthik, who incidentally dropped Saini today.
"The ball will move in the first hour on all the days here, and I am hopeful that Joginder Singh, Sanjay Budhwar, and Sachin Rana can do the job for us," Ashwini said. Haryana are desperate to be seen as serious contenders in the Super League and so much would depend on how they play tomorrow. "We want to show that hum by chance, fluke se nahin aaye hain Super mein (We want to prove that our elevation to Super League was no fluke effort)," Saini said. "This is a great chance to prove that."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo