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The Hindu
The Hindu
M. R. Praveen Chandran

RANJI TROPHY | Azharuddeen’s memorable comeback takes Kerala to a challenging total

Mohammed Azharuddeen’s comeback into the Ranji team, after a four-year hiatus, turned memorable with a cultured knock of 85 which was the cornerstone of Kerala’s dominant day against Chhattisgarh in their Ranji Trophy cricket match at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International stadium here on Saturday.

His sweetly timed shots weren’t a revelation on this day, but his temperament was. Azharuddeen’s well-paced innings carried Kerala to a challenging 350. Medium pacer M.D. Nidheesh, with a probing spell at the fag end, took two wickets in an over, reduced the host to 100 for four and enabled Kerala finish the second day on a high.

If not for a defiant unbeaten 50 by Sanjeet Desai, Chhattisgarh would have been in deeper trouble. Sanjeet repaired the innings along with Ashutosh Singh (31) after the host lost openers, Shashank Chandrakar and Rishab Tiwari cheaply. Sanjeet added 75 with Ashutosh for the second wicket to frustrate the visitor. But Nidheesh bowled with sustained hostility in his second spell and dismissed Ashutosh and Amandeep Khare in the same over.

The day’s opening session belonged to both Azharuddeen and to the young medium pacer Ashish Chouhan, who became the first bowler from Chhattisgarh to take five wickets (five for 100) on debut.

Ashish Chouhan impressed with a five wicket haul on debut for Chhattisgarh in its Ranji Trophy encounter against Kerala at Raipur on February 3, 2024. (Source: Special Arrangement)

Ashish gave Chhattisgarh a dream start when he had Sanju Samson, on his overnight score of 57, snicking a catch to wicketkeeper K.D. Eknath in the second over. 

Azharuddeen got into his groove pretty early and struck two crisp boundaries off Shashank Singh. Vishnu Vinod for a change was willing to graft while Azhar played with more aggression.

However, Azhar by his standards played with a lot of restraint and put away only the bad balls. The seventh wicket stand between Azhar and Vishnu added 80, but the latter fell playing a wild hoick to Ashish. Shreyas Gopal was dismissed cheaply by Ashish for five.

Left with the tail, Azhar opened out and hit his first six, a swivelled pull over fine leg and soon fell trying to repeat the stroke against Ravi Kiran.

The scores: Kerala – 1st innings: Rohan Kunnammal b Ravi 0, Jalaj Saxena c Tiwari b Ashish 0, Rohan Prem run out 54, Sachin Baby c Desai b Ashish 91, Sanju Samson c Eknath b Ashish 57, Vishnu Vinod b Ashish 40, Mohammed Azharuddeeen c Ajay b Ravi 85, Shreyas Gopal c Chandrakar b Ashish 5, Basil Thampi lbw b Ajay 5, M.D. Nidheesh lbw b Ajay 5, Akhin (not out) 0; Extras (b-6, lb-1, w-1): 8; Total (in 110.1 overs): 350.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-4, 3-139, 4-187, 5-220, 6-300, 7-317, 8-322, 9-350.

Chhattisgarh bowling: Ravi 28-6-84-2, Ashish 32-7-100-5, Sourabh 7.5-1-30-0, Ajay 22.1-5-56-2, Shashank 18-1-69-0, Ashutosh 2-0-4-0, Chandrakar 0.1-0-0-0.

Chhattisgarh — 1st innings: Shashank Chandrakar c Azharuddeen b Thampi 8, Rishab Tiwari b Jalaj 7, Ashutosh Singh lbw b Nidheesh 31, Sanjeet Desai (batting) 50, Amandeep Khare lbw b Nidheesh 0, K.D. Eknath (batting) 1; Extras (b-1, 1b-1, w-1): 3; Total (for four wkts in 44 overs): 100.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-16, 3-91, 4-91.

Kerala bowling: Thampi 12-2-35-1, Nidheesh 11-5-19-2, Jalaj 10-4-9-1, Akhin 5-1-13-0, Shreyas 5-16-0, Vishnu 1-0-6-0.

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