Kanitkar, Bist build platform for Rajasthan
Rajasthan 198 for 3 (Kanitkar 61, Bist 56*) v Baroda
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Baroda did what Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had done against Rajasthan, opting to bowl, and just like in those two matches, the visitors built a solid platform on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final, albeit at a snail's pace. On a dry and flat wicket that, contrary to expectations, played low and slow, Rajasthan set themselves up for a big score on the second day, though captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar's late dismissal evened things out a bit.
Kanitkar and Robin Bist led a calculated batting effort, in which each of the four specialist batsman played more than 100 deliveries. The Rajasthan batsmen blunted the inexperienced Baroda attack and inched along at around two runs per over for the first two sessions. Playing themselves in was the target, and Rajasthan's intent to bat big was evident from the fact that only one boundary came in the first 20 overs. But Baroda did not possess the venom to prise out the watchful openers on the flat deck.
The wind that was expected to aid movement did not arrive, the bald wicket offered no help either, and left-arm seamer Sankalp Vohra's first delivery died down on its way to wicketkeeper Pinal Shah. Pinal ultimately stood up to two of the three Baroda seamers, Vohra and debutant Abhijit Karambelkar. Only Murtuja Vahora managed to get decent carry, running in hard whenever he was given the ball. It was too much to expect 20-year-old left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt to take the wickets on a first-day track that did not take much turn, though he toiled for 23 overs.
The openers fell against the run of play after having played themselves in. Aakash Chopra and Vineet Saxena had looked in no trouble from the outset, looking to leave as many deliveries as possible outside the off stump, and defending when they had to. Chopra, in fact, did not hit a boundary till his 64th delivery. He fell trying to sweep a delivery from Bhatt that was a touch full for the shot, and Saxena was run out freakishly, having walked out of the crease to do some gardening while the ball was adjudged to be still in play.
Coming together at 73 for 2, Kanitkar and Bist consolidated, adding 117 in a partnership that had begun to assume threatening proportions when Kanitkar fell four overs before stumps, looking for a scoring opportunity and guiding an Aditya Waghmode delivery to a diving Connor Williams at slip.
Kanitkar was the most positive of the batsmen, driving and cutting cleanly whenever he got a loose delivery, and offering a dead bat to the others. Bist was extremely cautious to begin with, remaining on 7 for 26 deliveries before he gave Waghmode a sudden charge and lifted him over midwicket for his first boundary. Both batsmen looked to step out against the spinners, especially after tea, as the ball was not coming on to the bat.
Despite Kanitkar's fall, Bist was in complete control at the other end, and his wicket will be key. If Baroda find a way to bundle Rajasthan out quickly and take strike early on Wednesday, they could make the visitors pay for their slow approach.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo