Tamil Nadu 251 for 5 (Badrinath 123*, Ganapathy 70*) v Mumbai
S Badrinath cracked a belligerent century to snatch the reins out of Mumbai's hands and put Tamil Nadu back in the saddle at the Bandra-Kurla complex. Earlier in the morning incisive seam bowling from the new-ball pair of Usman Malvi and Dhawal Kulkarni reduced the visitors to 50 for 5. But Badrinath stood strong and found an equally sturdy partner in C Ganpathy and the duo raised an unbeaten 201-run stand for the sixth wicket.
In a way the stage was set for Badrinath, one of the most resilient minds on the first-class circuit in addition to being a consistent batsman in domestic cricket over the last five years. Over the last two years he has been on the fringes of the Indian team, picked in the national squad for various series. Time spent with illustrious company has definitely made him that much more resolute and today he brought that mental fortitude to the fore.
Badrinath had already seen his team-mates restless during their brief stints at the crease. They were constantly troubled by both Malvi and Kulkarni, who were accurate with their lengths and made optimum use of the moisture in the track by hitting the seam to get sharp movement. Abhinav Mukund, beaten by both pace and movement, tried to go for an unconvincing cut against a rising ball from Kulkarni; the resulting edge went to the wicketkeeper.
M Vijay, standing in as captain for Dinesh Karthik, who is with the Indian team to play the Twenty20s against Sri Lanka, started off with couple of fluent boundaries. The first one was a clip to the leg side off Kulkarni in his first over and then a forward punch that rolled past the straight boundary. He had come into the game after playing an important role with his 82 in the Mumbai Test against Sri Lanka. But a consistent length by the Mumbai fast men tied Vijay down and Kulkarni eventually induced an edge off a delivery that was seaming away.
The visitors lost the next three wickets in quick succession. Malvi found himself on a hat-trick in the 16th over having got rid of Anirudh Srikkanth and Suresh Kumar. But Ganpathy firmly defended the good length delivery to deny Malvi a memorable return into the team. Tall and broad shouldered, Malvi is well-known for his aggressive style of bowling, but the team management had preferred the likes of Kulkarni and Aavishkar Salvi in the previous games.
Malvi was getting a game after Ajit Agarkar pulled out due to a groin injury. In the past Malvi had flattered to deceive by resorting to the short ball frequently in unhelpful conditions, allowing batsmen to settle down. A similar thing happened later in the afternoon as Badrinath frustrated Malvi by ducking his bouncers and sometimes pulling when he was in the right position.
But it wasn't just the fast bowling that Badrinath was comfortable facing. He is 29 now, one the oldest players in the team, and he used his feet freely against the spin combination of Ramesh Powar and Iqbal Abdulla, punishing them whenever they challenged him with flighted deliveries. In the space of a few overs on either side of the lunch break, he stepped out to hit both spinners for three sixes over the straight boundary.
Badrinath was taking risks but they were calculated. He understood that he had to remain the last man standing for Tamil Nadu to avoid being on the receiving end of a relatively flat pitch. So he and Ganpathy rotated strike without attempting any big strokes in the whole of the second session even as the scoring-rate dropped. But importantly the pair had succeeded in doing damage control after the morning's wreckage.
But Badrinath did not shy from jumping from 95 to his second century of the season by once again charging Powar and hitting over the sight screen. Immediately he took off his cap and doffed it to his team-mates in the dressing room. The manner in which he played so far was a good example for many of the Tamil Nadu youngsters. Badrinath too has been a keen learner all his career. Till IPL arrived he believed more in being defensive. Today he is more free in his strokeplay.
"The fielders were inside and spinners tossing the ball up. I had enough time to take a chance," Badrinath said. "Earlier I used to play risk-free strokes but the IPL is a reason for the change in my batting."