National Cricket Academy were unstoppable on the second day of their MRF-Buchi Babu tournament title clash with Oil and Gas National Corporation at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai today. Mohd. Kaif had little difficulty in completing his hundred in the morning as the NCA boys closed their first innings at 449. The NCA bowlers then knocked over ONGC for just 154. Indeed that figure would have been even more modest but for an entertaining 74 from No.8 Sandeep Sharma which rescued the oilmen from an embarrassing 76/8. NCA, preferring not to enforce the follow on, lost the wicket of SS Das in the only over they negotiated in their second knock before bad light stopped play.
In the fourth over of the day, before a single run had been added to the overnight score of 360/6, Amit Bhandari got rid of Romesh Powar who top edged a pull behind the wicket which Virender Shewag, running to his left from slip, safely collected. Kaif played some lovely strokes off a wayward Sandeep Sharma and duly reached three figures off his 182nd delivery, by pulling a shortish delivery to the fence at square leg. His concentration seemed to flag a little after the landmark was posted, twice going down on one knee for cross batted heaves that failed to make contact. Rakesh Dhruve, who'd contributed precisely 2 out of a partnership of 47 with Kaif, hoisted Rahul Sanghvi high and straight down Mohd. Saif's throat at mid on. Kaif fell soon after for 123 (212 balls, 15 fours, 1 six), a fierce horizontal thrust on bended knee going like a bullet to Gagan Khoda at mid wicket who almost had his hands dislocated.
A most entertaining cameo from Mrityunjay Tripathy followed, the No. 11 making 28 of the 32 run last wicket stand with Rakesh Patel, including a lofted hit over long on, and five searing boundaries. Sanghvi who'd borne the brunt of Tripathy's assault knocked out the batsman's middle stump as the batsman made room to cut a fullish length delivery. The innings ended in the 118th over and Tripathy was nicely warmed up for the mayhem that now unfolded. The UP seamer sent back Radheshyam Gupte in the penultimate over before lunch. The batsman looked to deflect it to third man but Shiv Sunder Das scooped up the low chance at second slip. The umpires had to confer before serving marching orders.
Soon after the interval, skipper Khoda drove loosely outside the off stump to present wicket keeper Rohit Jhalani with a straightforward offering. Virender Shewag, of short stocky build and wearing a pair of distinctively faded pads, began well, displaying felicity square of the wicket on the off side. But he played a pretentious drive which failed to connect and looked back to see his off stump clean out of the ground. That made it three out of three for Tripathy, a wiry chap, not really tough looking like fast bowlers of yore but able to generate surprising pace with a smooth action.
Dhruve spilt a sitter at gully to let off Gautam Vadhera but he made no mistake when it happened again in Sodhi's first over. Sodhi was bowling a probing line around off stump which drew the next two batsmen, Rizwan Shamshad and Mithun Minhas, into edges behind the wicket as ONGC dipped to 60/6. Rakesh Patel, having switched to the pavilion end, removed Saif just before tea at the same score and from the first ball after the break, Sanghvi was leg before to Tripathy.
Then began the rearguard action by the two Sandeeps, Sharma and Dogra. Punjab all rounder Sharma who made a lusty 98 on his Ranji Trophy debut coming in at No. 10 and who frequently plays the role of pinch hitter for his state was in a combative mood. His 74 came off just 89 balls, including 12 boundaries and a pulled six off Dhruve. Just after reaching his half century, he singled out the same bowler for more punishment in a purple patch that produced three successive boundaries. Sodhi took a brilliant tumbling catch at mid on to finally nix the 78-run stand at 154. Four runs later Powar ended the innings with his first wicket. Tripathy (4/50), Sodhi (3/26) and Patel (2/27) all were in their elements.
Despite a humongous lead of 289, NCA chose to give their bowlers some respite by declining the follow on option. SS Das edged Bhandari to stand-in keeper Shamshad off the third ball of the NCA reply and then had the mortification of seeing the players come off for bad light at the end of the over although the light was no better or worse. There were 11 overs left to be bowled when stumps were drawn at 5.00 pm and the match as a contest is decidedly buried.