Rajasthan poised to wrap up crown

Rajasthan poised to wrap up crown

TN concede 326-run lead despite Kaarthick century

The writing clearly on the wall after three days of complete dominance by Rajasthan, Sunday was to be a test of character and fortitude for Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu's Dinesh Karthik plays a shot during the 4th day of Ranji Trophy final match against Rajasthan in Chennai on Sunday. PTI Their hopes of ending a 23-year drought in tatters after being reduced to 66 for three in response to the defending champions’ decisive 621, Tamil Nadu had only pride to play for on day four of the Ranji Trophy final. At the MA Chidambaram stadium, Dinesh Kaarthick produced an innings of exceptional skill and tremendous versatility, but all it did was briefly stymie Rajasthan’s charge towards a second successive title.

Responsible in no small measure for the run out of a well-set R Prasanna, Kaarthick redeemed himself somewhat with his third hundred of the season, but his sparkling 150 (422m, 280b, 21x4, 1x6) was always going to be an essay in futility as Rajasthan clamped both hands firmly on the symbol of domestic supremacy in the country.

The persistence of a hard-working four-pronged attack, coupled with needless generosity from umpire Vineet Kulkarni, drove Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s men forward, the final day’s proceedings on Monday now of no more than academic interest.

Kaarthick was almost single-handedly responsible for Tamil Nadu’s modest first-innings tally of 295, which put them 326 runs in arrears. Predictably, Rajasthan opted to bat on and closed on 21 without loss, first-innings double centurion Vineet Saxena on the verge of batting on all five match days when play resumes on Monday.

Sunday was more about numbers than anything else. As a contest, the final was over when Tamil Nadu lost their top three for just 24. The only interest on day four was how much face the hosts could save after the prior embarrassments; as it turned out, it wasn’t too much.

The continued reluctance of the batsmen to learn from their mistakes extended to K Shri Vasudeva Das, dismissed in the day’s third over flicking to mid-wicket, not unlike Murali Vijay on Saturday. Kaarthick, though, wasn’t going to give in without a fight. The diminutive wicketkeeper-batsman showed no signs of physical tiredness or mental fatigue as he played with a calm assurance not always second nature to him.

In the strokeful R Prasanna, he found an able ally as, despite the vicissitudes of a wearing track that encouraged variable bounce, the fifth-wicket pair put the Rajasthan bowling in perspective.

Untroubled during their 112-minute association that yielded 76, the duo showed intent until a moment of madness ended the entertainment. Kaarthick played Sumit Mathur to mid-on and set off for a sharp single, but deviated from his normal path and therefore collided with the non-striker. Rituraj Singh’s throw, aimed at the bowler’s end, missed the stumps and rolled over to wicket-keeper Dishant Yagnik, who whipped off the bails to catch a flailing, desperately unfortunate Prasanna centimetres short.

Kaarthick was distraught, but to his credit, he didn’t allow the mishap, or Sunny Gupta’s uncomfortable stint, to play on his mind. To compound Tamil Nadu’s misery, Kulkarni ruled V Yomahesh leg before to Pankaj Singh with the ball headed down the leg-side, all but hastening the end.

Kaarthick wasn’t done yet. He played each delivery on its merit and very late, untroubled by the uneven bounce the pacers enjoyed or the appreciable turn left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh procured. Strokes cascaded off his willow as he mocked the slowness of the pitch, and in Lakshmipathi Balaji’s company he flayed the bowling until Kulkarni stepped in again, adjudging the skipper leg before to Rituraj though the ball flew to fine-leg only off the inside edge.

This stand of 60 was followed by another of 65 in which J Kaushik’s contribution was just five as Kaarthick went on the attack, smashing the second new ball to all parts of the ground. He fell playing one stroke too many, bowled off the inside edge, but long before that, the fate of the final had been well and truly decided.

Score board

RAJASTHAN (I Innings): 621 all out in 245 overs
TAMIL NADU (I Innings, O/n: 66/3): Abhinav Mukund lbw Rituraj 0 (9m, 9b), Murali Vijay c Yadav b Rituraj 15 (45m, 26b, 2x4), S Badrinath lbw Pankaj 6 (21m, 17b, 2x4), Dinesh Kaarthick b Mathur 150 (422m, 280b, 21x4, 1x6), K Shri Vasudeva Das c Gajendra b Rituraj 25 (78m, 55b, 5x4), R Prasanna (run out) 44 (112m, 77b, 9x4), Sunny Gupta st Yagnik b Gajendra 6 (38m, 30b), V Yomahesh lbw Pankaj 0 (18m, 13b), Lakshmipathi Balaji lbw Rituraj 29 (65m, 50b, 6x4), J Kaushik c Pankaj b Mathur 6 (102m, 51b, 1x4), R Aushik Srinivas (not out) 2 (9m, 6b). Extras (B-3, LB-8, W-1) 12. Total (all out, 102.4 overs) 295.

Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Mukund), 2-12 (Badrinath), 3-24 (Vijay), 4-71 (Vasudeva), 5-147 (Prasanna), 6-164 (Gupta), 7-167 (Yomahesh), 8-227 (Balaji), 9-292 (Kaarthick). Bowling: Pankaj Singh 25-7-58-2, Rituraj Singh 26-5-76-4, Sumit Mathur 25.4-8-53-2 (w-1), Gajendra Singh 26-5-97-1.
RAJASTHAN (II Innings): Aakash Chopra (batting) 10 (30m, 17b, 2x4), Vineet Saxena (batting) 10 (30m, 26b, 1x4). Extras (NB-1) 1. Total (for no loss, 7 overs) 21.
Bowling: J Kaushik 3-1-12-0 (nb-1), V Yomahesh 3-1-8-0, R Aushik Srinivas 1-0-1-0.

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