THE ball had hardly travelled a few yards in front of the wicket on the off-side. Three Karnataka fielders, agile and eager, were converging upon it like wolves on their prey. All Baba Indrajith did was to lift his head up slightly and look at the other end of the pitch. By the time his eyes met those of his batting-partner though, Baba Aparajith had already begun his sprint towards the striking-end. The glance itself was a mere formality. If there ever was an instinctive single, this was it.
For, if one Baba had decided there was one to be had, it was obvious the other Baba had as well. Isn’t that how twins function anyway?
It’s inevitable that the first thing you notice about a pair of twins batting together is their running between wickets. Mainly, because you expect them to justify all the clichés.
That ‘they’ll require no calling’ ‘they’ll run like they’re still joined at the hip, not literally of course and also like with ‘true love’, their eyes do all the talking.
Thankfully, the Baba twins took only two deliveries to validate each one of those at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. Now, cricket history is ripe with examples of umbilical understandings — in a metaphorical sense of course-having existed between batsmen who weren’t siblings, forget twins. From Simpson-Lawry to Greenidge-Haynes. But still this was special.
They had been brought together more by providence than plan. After having kept wickets for close to 200 overs, Dinesh Karthik, had been too dehydrated to take his regular spot at No.4, ensuring that Indrajith joined Aparajith in the middle.
Murali Vijay had just fallen, his apparent weakness against the in-coming delivery early on having been exposed by Vinay Kumar for the second time running.
The partnership between the Babas only lasted all of 8.3 overs, in which they added 34 runs to Tamil Nadu’s floundering cause. But it was probably the most entertaining period of play on Day 4. Not just for the twins’ moments that they produced but also for the enterprising stroke-play of Indrajith, who hit Shreyas Gopal for a six and a four off consecutive deliveries before falling to the third delivery.
It reduced the title challengers to 79/3 in their second innings and on the cusp of an embarrassing defeat.
By stumps, Aparajith and Vijay Shankar had at least ensured the match goes into Day 5 by taking their team’s score to 113/3, still needing to score 515 runs to stave off an innings defeat.
Overall, Tamil Nadu did little to justify their spot in the Ranji Trophy final for the fourth day running. This despite having gotten rid of Karun Nair after what seemed like a week for 328, the highest score ever in a Ranji final.
After the brief high, came the humiliation as Karnataka skipper Vinay Kumar notched up only his second first-class ton, facing 319 deliveries and spending more than six hours to get there. At the other end, Sreenath Aravind helped himself to his maiden half-century, adding 83 frustrating runs with his captain. Tamil Nadu had no answers. They hardly even looked keen to find any. Now they look poised to leave Mumbai with their pride in tatters.
It took them two-and-a-half-days and over 600 runs to finally come up with a plan, even if it was a flawed one. And you couldn’t help but wonder what the weary and disparate Tamil Nadu seamers had to say when their captain must have asked them to start Day 4 by bending their aching backs and attack the ribs of a batsman well past his triple-ton.
To their credit, they did heed to the team plan, and even managed to cause some discomfort for Nair, by hitting him on the gloves. But true to form, the record-breaker pulled that short delivery to the boundary for four. That in many ways, summed up the complete obliteration of Tamil Nadu’s challenge, and Karnataka’s subsequent superiority in domestic cricket. With a day to go, they stand seven wickets away from making it two-in-two.
Brief scores: Tamil Nadu: 134 & 113 /3 in 40 overs (Baba Aparajith batting 36; Shreyas Gopal 2/36); Karnataka 1st innings: 762 in 231.2 overs (Karun Nair 328, K L Rahul 188, R Vinay Kumar 105 not out, Laxmipathy Balaji 3/120, Malolan Rangarajan 3/183).
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