October 30, 2013 1:28:22 am
Syed Abbas Ali,the Tripura skipper,brought the field in as Vijay Zol,batting on 191,took strike in the 124th over. With the last 67 balls going by without a boundary scored,Ali hoped that cutting off the easy single might induce a mistake from the 18-year-old playing his first Ranji Trophy game.
Bowling to a packed on-side ring,Abhijit Chakraborty,the left-arm spinner,tossed the ball up. The moment the ball left the spinners hand,Zol seemed to have made up his mind. Indias under-19 captain languorously strode down the pitch and punched the ball over mid-on. There was no full-blooded swing of the bat,and barely any follow-through,but the ball,timed to perfection,soared over the rope and thudded onto the empty seats of the south stand at the MCA stadium.
Zols teammates rose,along with the sparse crowd inside the stadium a fair chunk of whom were Zols own family and friends from Jalna with the southpaw three short of the landmark.
He knocked a single off the next ball and in the next over ran one fine to third man to complete his double hundred,welcoming it with what seems to have become a celebration du jour,both arms aloft and head tilted skywards.
Maharashtra declared their innings the moment Zol got his 200th run off the 324th ball that he had faced,having batted for more than seven and a half hours. With a lead of 157 runs,the Maharashtra bowlers sent back KB Pawan early on,with Tripura finishing the day on 28 for one,128 behind.
The day belonged to only one man. The sixth Indian to score a double century on debut,Zol,18,also became the second youngest batsman to do so behind Gundappa Viswanath. The double ton was a work of silky timing,with 19 hits to the fence,and also periods of gritty,focussed batting. Along the way,he compiled a 199-run partnership for the second wicket with Harshad Khadiwale,who made his 10th first class ton in typically quiet fashion.
Zol unfurled the signature cover drive,of the bended-knee variety,a number of times,with the left-hander often holding his pose for just that extra moment,almost as if to stamp his class on the hapless Tripura bowlers. They tried everything. They bowled short; Zol cut and pulled; they bowled full; out rolled the drives. When they tried to stymie him,bowling into his legs,he walked across his stumps,brandishing cheeky dabs. He hunkered down too,often spending extended periods of time knocking the ball straight down the ground for singles.
Brief scores: Tripura 304 and 28/1 in 17 overs vs Maharashtra 460/3 decl in 126 overs (Harshad Khadiwale 112,Vijay Zol 200*,Kedar Jadhav 57,Sangram Atitkar 54*).
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