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GRITTY KNOCK:Tamil Nadu's S. Badrinath held one end up and remained unbeaten on 78 at the end of day three.
JAIPUR: Rajasthan is bending its back and Tamil Nadu stretching every muscle, drawing on its experience to make a match of it. The calculators were out in the evening as the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium took an expected course where run rate would come into play to decide the winner.
This morning, Rajasthan, resuming at 483 for five, declared at 552 for seven after Ashok Menaria (88 overnight) and skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar (64 overnight) duly completed their centuries.
And then the focus shifted to Tamil Nadu where S. Badrinath produced a typically gritty and disciplined innings of 78 that kept the match alive.
There was little respite for the bowlers because the pitch continued to test their striking powers. It was not intense but the contest developed into an interesting one. Unlike the Tamil Nadu bowlers on the first morning, the home pair of Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar made the batsmen play.
In the process, Chahar struck when he moved the ball in to rattle K.B. Arun Karthick's stumps. But Tamil Nadu dropped anchor to seize the situation with a composed response from Abhinav Mukund and Badrinath.
The bowlers toiled; the batsmen waited patiently. It was just what the situation demanded. Badrinath at the crease brought a calming impact on Mukund, who was discreet in his shot selection.
A few flowing drives and rasping strokes square of the wicket indicated that both of them were in good touch. The bowlers gradually drifted and suffered in line and length. Badrinath was not tempted but a bowling change saw Mukund misread Pankaj. His dismissal after 162 balls (47, 8x4) was premature considering his splendid form.
Tamil Nadu now looked up to its most reliable pair in Badrinath and skipper Dinesh Karthik. The partnership developed with Badrinath again playing the guiding role with the assurance that marks his game. Karthik was willing to shed his impulse to play shots and Rajasthan had a tough afternoon.
The bowlers changed ends, Pankaj went over and round; Sumit Mathur ran in straight and diagonal, using the crease; Chahar tried working up pace, but Badrinath and Karthik were unmoved.
It was leg-spinner Vivek Yadav who broke the stubborn stand when Karthik misread the turn and was adjudged leg-before. Badrinath was now joined by K. Shri Vasudevadas and the two ensured there were no further alarms for Tamil Nadu.
Badrinath, who has looked rock solid in this innings, has faced 184 balls and hit ten boundaries. He holds the key to Tamil Nadu's march to the final. All eyes would be on him on the final day as Tamil Nadu bats with an eye on the run rate to decide the winner of this contest. Unless, of course, the home team manages to pick up seven wickets!
Rajasthan — 1st innings: Aakash Chopra c Shri Vasudevdas b Sam 139, Vinit Saxena b Suresh Kumar 72, Hrishikesh Kanitkar (not out) 100, Vivek Yadav c Karthik b Balaji 5, Robin Bisht lbw b Sathish 65, R.R. Parida c Badrinath b Sam 19, Ashok Menaria c Karthik b Ganapathy 106, Pankaj Singh c Badrinath b Ganapathy 9, Deepak Chahar (not out) 4; Extras (b-1, lb-17 nb-11, w-4): 33; Total (for seven wkts. decl in 190 overs): 552.
Fall of wickets: 1-181, 2-245, 3-294, 4-331, 5-388, 6-534, 7-546.
Tamil Nadu bowling: Balaji 30-7-77-1, Ganapathy 34-8-73-2, Suthesh 32-7-80-0, Sam 30-3-96-2, Suresh Kumar 47-9-147-1, Abhinav Mukund 4-1-15-0, Sathish 13-3-46-1.
Tamil Nadu — 1st innings: Abhinav Mukund lbw b Pankaj Singh 47, K.B. Arun Karthick b Chahar 7, S. Badrinath (batting) 78, Dinesh Karthik lbw b Vivek Yadav 28, K. Shri Vasudevadas (batting) 22; Extras (lb-5, nb-1, w-2): 8; Total (for three wkts. in 69 overs): 190.
Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-93, 3-139.
Rajasthan bowling: Pankaj Singh 19-5-45-1, Chahar 18-4-51-1, Sumit 17-2-41-0, Vivek Yadav 13-5-37-1, Menaria 1-0-5-0, Saxena 1-0-6-0 .
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