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RESULT
Rajkot, October 01 - 03, 2023, Irani Cup
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308 & 160
(T:255) 214 & 79

Rest of Ind won by 175 runs

Player Of The Match
39, 4/65 & 6/43
saurabh-kumar
Report

Sai Sudharsan counters Saurashtra's spinners to give Rest of India opening-day honours

On a first-day Rajkot turner, the Tamil Nadu opener made batting look easy

Deivarayan Muthu
01-Oct-2023
There's no stopping B Sai Sudharsan  •  Surrey CCC/Getty Images

There's no stopping B Sai Sudharsan  •  Surrey CCC/Getty Images

Rest of India 298 for 8 (Sudharsan 72, Bharat 36, Bhut 4-85) vs Saurashtra
All-new setting, same-old B Sai Sudharsan. A little over 24 hours after winning the championship with Surrey in Southampton in what was his maiden county stint, Sudharsan turned up in Rajkot via Mumbai and set himself up for another title with 72 runs of the highest quality on a day-one turner. Sudharsan was the only Rest of India batter to pass 40 on a track that also provided variable bounce to Saurashtra's bowlers.
Sudharsan's dismissal led to a wobble - Rest of India lost 3 for 22 - but handy contributions from the lower order dragged them closer to 300 by stumps on the first day.
Since smashing 96 off 47 balls for Gujarat Titans in the IPL final in May, Sudharsan has been churning out runs. TNPL: check. Duleep Trophy: check. India A: check. Deodhar Trophy: check. County cricket: check. Sunday was no different as he eased his way back home though some of the other batters struggled at the other end.
Sudharsan set the base, forging a 69-run opening partnership with Mayank Agarwal after Rest of India won what could be a crucial toss on a difficult surface. Sudharsan was fairly watchful in the early exchanges against domestic veteran Jaydev Unadkat, but then set to work with a Sadagoppan Ramesh-esque flick off Chirag Jani in the sixth over.
Saurashtra introduced spin in the form of Dharmendrasinh Jadeja as early as the ninth over and paired him up with Yuvrajsinh Dodiya. With two slips and a silly point in place, Dodiya went around the wicket and regularly found purchase to threaten Sudharsan's outside edge, but the batter patiently let those go outside off. As for Agarwal, he briefly attacked the spinners with sweeps before Jadeja had him looping a bat-pad catch to slip for 32.
Sudharsan could've also been dismissed on 23, when Dodiya drew him out of the crease, but Harvik Desai, the wicketkeeper, missed the stumping chance. Sudharsan then tightened up: he was either right forward or right back to deal with spin and waited for loose balls. And when they came, he put them away with drives and flicks. One such flick brought him his half-century before lunch.
Sudharsan is used to playing on such turners for his club Jolly Rovers in Chennai's first-division league. At various points in Rajkot, he made batting look easy against Saurashtra's spinners.
Either side of the lunch break, Unadkat found some sharp inswing and had a silly mid-on in place, but Sudharsan did not fall into that trap. He also added 69 for the second wicket with Hanuma Vihari before the Rest of India captain spooned left-arm fingerspinner Parth Bhut to Samarth Vyas at silly point. Bhut later got rid of Sudharsan and Yash Dhull to expose the lower-middle order.
KS Bharat and Shams Mulani then made counterattacking thirties to help Rest of India regain some lost ground. Uttar Pradesh's Saurabh Kumar frustrated Saurashtra even further with a more sedate 30 not out.
In all, the seamers bowled just 16 out of the 90 overs on the first day, with the spin trio of Bhut, Jadeja and Dodiya putting in big shifts. Rest of India also have three spinners at their disposal - Saurabh, Mulani and Pulkit Narang - and they will also have a major role to play on a pitch that will slow down as the game progresses.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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