Maharashtra’s think-tank seemed to have been in a confused state of mind as their batsmen Harshad Khadiwale and Chirag Khurana batted with great urgency till lunch and then adopted a defensive ploy in the third session. Attacking stroke play,which saw them gnaw away rapidly at the 183-run first innings deficit and gain a 31-run lead by lunch on the final day,if persisted with could have allowed Maharashtra to declare earlier and try and put Tamil Nadu under pressure. But they chose to lose by first innings lead,rather than giving themselves the slightest of chances of scalping 10 wickets one that could come at a cost of the opposition winning outright by hunting down the total.
Instead of declaring their innings after quickly posting a tricky but tempting target,Maharashtra’s middle-order stroked on until there was no way back,conceding three points instead of five or six. Unfortunately in the quarterfinal of the Ranji Trophy,the margin of defeat hardly matters. At 214 for no loss at lunch on the final day of this quarter-final fixture against hosts Tamil Nadu at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium,Khadiwale and Khurana (102 and 97 at that point) had given the promoted side from the Plate league a platform to launch a final attack and then force Laxmipathy Balaji’s men to bat again. With both the players throwing the bathroom tub at the bowlers,the only question at the point was when?
Not anytime between lunch and tea,as their batting would suggest. Pulling down the shutters on their so-far brisk scoring,Khadiwale – who had hit some exquisite strokes of the wristy kind until then – decided to block everything in sight,and succumbed to the part-time military medium of Ramaswamy Prasanna. Khurana,who had brought up just the second century of his first-class career,followed his senior partner three overs later by falling from a strike rate of 68 to 44.
While there was still some hope when Kedar Jadhav,the pint sized middle-order explosive,came out wielding his willow like Butch Cassidy – he hit two sixes to bring up the 100-run lead with 33 overs to go – even his dismissal on 69 didn’t force coach Shaun Williams to declare. Maharashtra captain Rohit Motwani had finally decided to declare,140 ahead with 24 overs to go. So why were they so defensive and not give it one last push,considering the underdogs had nothing to lose? Williams answered at the end of the game. “I have never seen anyone take 10 wickets so quickly in first-class cricket. It would have never been possible,” said the Australian coach.
Brief scores: Maharashtra 232 & 322/4 decl (H Khadiwale 105,C Khurana 102,K Jadhav 69; S Gupta 2/69) vs Tamil Nadu 415 & 45 for 1 (A Mukund 21 n.o,S Gupta 13 n.o)