This game once again exposed Tamil Nadu’s weakness in batting and bowling. Over the course of four days, their mediocrity was laid bare. It was only Dinesh Karthik’s individual effort that saved them from an outright loss.
After scoring 92 in the first innings, the 29-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman scored 103 not out on the final day of this Group A Ranji Trophy fixture on Thursday. It helped the visitors return with one point.
Karthik arrived at the crease with his team under pressure. Resuming on overnight 80 for one, still 128 runs short of saving an innings defeat, Tamil Nadu had slumped to 117 for three. To start with, K Bharat Shankar and nightwatchman R Aushik Srinivas played out five consecutive maiden overs before the latter got out to Sourav Sarkar. Attempting a hook, he top-edged a loopy bouncer behind the stumps.
Opener Bharat Shankar reached his half-century and then inexplicably shouldered arm a straight ball from Laxmi Ratan Shukla to lose his off stump. Karthik came with his usual positive energy and it rubbed off on Baba Aparajith. Together they put on 103 runs for the fourth wicket — more importantly, consumed 34.2 overs — to take their team to safety.
Aparajith scored 68, but it was Karthik’s innings that upset the hosts. He toyed the bowlers while timing the ball beautifully on both sides of the wicket. It was, also, good entertainment for a handful of spectators who cared to drop in.
Karthik had played a similar match-saving knock (129) against Madhya Pradesh about a couple of weeks ago. And his 21st first-class hundred on Thursday highlighted his present batting form.
But he was shoddy behind the stumps during Bengal’s innings, conceding 15 byes, dropping a relatively simple catch and making a hash of some regulation takes. To be back in contention for a Team India slot, he has to improve his glovework.
Tamil Nadu, too, need to get better in all departments to qualify for the knockout stage. With nine points from five matches, they’re in a tight spot at the moment. A first innings lead notwithstanding, Bengal stay rooted at the foot of the table with seven points from four matches. Here, they had an opportunity to secure a win. Young Abhimanyu Easwaran — adjudged Man of the Match — and Manoj Tiwary had set up the game nicely with their excellent batting display. Save Ashok Dinda, however, the hosts didn’t have a match-winning bowler.
Brief scores: Tamil Nadu 246 & 327/5 in 96 overs (Dinesh Karthik 103*, Baba Aparajith 68; Ashok Dinda 2/81) drew with Bengal 454/9 decl.
Points: Bengal 3, Tamil Nadu 1