Jaipur: MP Arjun castled Rajasthan skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar on the last ball of the day as Hyderabad restricted the hosts to 274 for 5, who were cruising at 187 for 2 at one stage, at stumps on day one.
Hyderabad captain Akshath Reddy won the toss and opted to bowl on a damp pitch. Left-arm medium-pacer Anwar Ahmed created an opportunity in the first over as Sourabh Chauhan nicked the second ball to the wicketkeeper Kolla Sumanth who spilled a low catch.
Chouhan was scratchy in the first few overs and was beaten consistently outside the off stump but later he hit a couple of boundaries, a cover drive off Arjun and a back-foot punch to Anwar, to move into the double figures. Vineet Saxena was watchful and saw the new ball off with utmost caution. Rajasthan scored just 19 runs off 11 overs in the first hour of the morning session. Saxena gained steam by cutting Anwar to deep backward point and flicking him to the deep midwicket boundary in the same over.
Just when Chouhan was beginning to look comfortable, he played a sluggish drive and was caught at short cover by Akshath Reddy off Ashish Reddy in the 20th over of the innings. Robin Bist got off the mark by nudging Arjun to fine leg and looked fluent right from the word go. He unfurled a glorious late-cut off Ashish Reddy to clock up his first boundary and later danced down the track to Amol Shinde, who was bowling his first over, and caned him for a straight six.
But his sprightly innings came to an unfortunate end when he was run out in a bid to steal a quick single. Sandeep Ranjan, fielding at square leg, was nimble and produced a direct hit to catch Bist short of the crease. He (Bist) made 26 off 31 balls. Ashok Menaria got off the mark by pushing the ball to midwicket and in the next over cracked a boundary through cover. At lunch, Rajasthan were 92 for 2.
After lunch, Menaria and Saxena cobbled together to forge a fine partnership and consolidated Rajasthan's position. Saxena stepped out to legspinner Akash Bhandari and tonked him over midwicket for a boundary. He was excellent on the back foot and let the ball come to him. He cut Shinde through backward point for a boundary to reach his half-century which came off 129 balls. Menaria was more enterprising and scored runs at a good clip. He reeled off a string of boundaries - glance to fine leg off Shinde, cover drive off Arjun and a straight drive to Ashish Reddy - and notched up his half-century in 62 balls which included nine boundaries. Rajasthan reached 150 in 49.5 overs.
While Saxena pinched singles and doubles consistently and didn't let bowlers to settle their line, Menaria relied more on boundaries. The stand of 105-run between them came to an end when Menaria was adjudged lbw off Shinde for 63. He pressed forward but misjudged the length and the ball rapped on the front pad. Kanitkar and Saxena took the team past 200 before the latter was caught at first slip by Hanuma Vihari off Shinde. The offspinner came round the wicket and got one to straighten after pitching on the off stump. Saxena was forward and an outside edge was duly grabbed. He made 84 off 209 balls.
Kanitkar survived a fine spell of bowling by Shinde and Bhandari in which there were a lot of appeals for lbws but the umpires didn't move. Rashmi Parida, on the other hand, was solid against the tweakers and displayed a couple of gorgeous shots - a late cut off Shinde and a drive off Bhandari - as Rajasthan reached 250 in 83rd over.
Parida got the reprieve in the 89th over, when he was batting on 22, when Parth Jhala dropped a simple catch at first slip but Arjun cleaned up Kanitkar with a yorker on the last ball of the day for 42.
Saxena, who scored a plucky 84, told CricketNext after the match that application was the key on a pitch which was conducive for the seamers. "Hyderabad had an advantage as they won the toss on the pitch which was slightly wet in the morning. It was paramount for us to negotiate the morning session. I think I applied myself well by playing close to the body and not hitting the ball on the up. On damp pitches, you have an extra time if you let the ball come to you and play late. I did the same "
Rajasthan opener, who has a reputation of excelling on tough pitches, asserted that on these pitches bowlers are a bit under the pressure as they are expected to take wickets and a good batsman can use it to his advantage. "In helpful conditions, everyone expects bowlers to bag wickets and rip through the opposite side. Failing to do the same invites flak so at times bowlers are a tad under the cosh and try too hard to pick up wickets. I relish these situations and try to make good use of the opportunities offered by the bowlers."
He stated that the match is evenly poised at this stage and the morning session on day two will be vital. "Had we not lost the wicket of Hrishi bhaiya [Kanitkar], we would have had an upper hand but now the match is nicely balanced. We did well by mustering 274 runs on day one at the loss of five wickets. If we could add around 150 more runs to the tally tomorrow, we'll be in a very good position as batting is not easy on this pitch."
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