It was a calculated approach from Baroda's batsmen that gave them the first-innings lead against Railways, and a foot in the door that leads to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals. The openers played out the new ball, young Kedar Devdhar scored his maiden century and played the anchor's role to perfection, enabling Yusuf Pathan and Ambati Rayudu to smash the tiring Railways bowlers as Baroda finished 55 runs in front.
Devdhar, the 21-year old playing only his sixth first-class game, chose the big occasion to convert his string of half-centuries this season into his first hundred, something his coach Mukesh Narula had said he should work on. "The pitch was good for batting, better than the first day, though Anureet Singh was getting some reverse swing in the end," Devdhar told ESPNcricinfo. "We took our time to play ourselves in, as the ball does a bit here in the first session. With Yusuf Pathan at the other end, I thought of giving him the strike as much as possible. In the second session, I started to play a few shots as the ball was coming onto the bat and the bounce was true."
A clearly pleased Narula said it was about time Devdhar made a hundred given the way he has played all season. "He is usually very balanced at the crease, and has also shown that he is a fast learner. One thing I noticed today is that he was not in awe of the big names coming in to bowl, whether it was Murali Kartik, Sanjay Bangar or JP Yadav. He stayed calm before lunch and post-lunch he was away."
Railways missed a trick by playing three spinners on a wicket that isn't turning much, and the trio were taken for 165 runs in 37 overs for a single wicket. Railways usually rely on JP Yadav and Sanjay Bangar, who keep it tight outside the off stump, but today Baroda also played the patience game, and came out on top. "They didn't have someone who could hurry batsmen with pace," Narula said. That hurt them. They might enjoy wickets with a bit of seam, but you need some pace on this wicket that has settled down. Apart from Anureet, they don't have anyone of that variety, but then they have come far with this kind of bowling, and have to be credited for that."
Abhay Sharma, the Railways coach, was full of praise for the way Baroda batted. "Yusuf was hitting the ball really well. And the new kid, Devdhar, looks to be very talented. He didn't give us chances, there was just one missed opportunity off Kartik after he had made his hundred. Sometimes, you just have to give credit to the opposition. We were keeping things really tight initially, but they batted well."
Baroda still have six wickets in hand, and Abhay knows that his team's chances depend on grabbing early wickets in the morning session. On the other hands, now that they have the lead, Baroda are expectedly looking to bat Railways out of the game. "I don't think we'll declare," Narula said. "Anyways, we are only 55 runs in front, and there is some way to go still in this game."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo