Dinesh Karthik’s 455-minute vigil ended in a rather tame manner. He hung his bat loosely to an away-goer from Shrikant Mundhe and nicked it to the ‘keeper. His slow but steady 113 off 304 balls (16×4) gave Tamil Nadu stability.
Early last month, when Karthik came here for the Ranji Trophy group game against Bengal, he had scored 92 and 103 not out in the two innings. The second innings resulted in his 21st first-class hundred that saved the game. This one, in the semifinal against Maharashtra, was his 22nd, which helped set things up for Tamil Nadu.
It was a patient innings. The pitch slowed down further and the Maharashtra bowlers adopted a negative line. Karthik was happy to play the waiting game. He’s too good a player to spare the loose balls. This was his third century this term, which took his overall tally to 753 runs at 53.78 in 10 matches. It’s a big improvement from a mediocre last season that saw him finish with 401 runs in eight matches at 40.10.
Vijay Shankar, too, looked set for his second first-class hundred. He was more aggressive than his senior partner, hitting 11 fours and a six in his 194-ball 91. But he threw away his wicket. It was a mindless slog, against off-spinner Chirag Khurana, and the leading edge went to Kedar Jadhav at short cover.
Karthik, however, was full of praise for the young middle-order batsman. “Vijay Shankar and (Baba) Indrajith have been the two standout players for us this season. They read the situation well and play according to it.”
As for his own performance, he said: “Against Bengal it was different, because there I had to save the game. Here, it was about setting up the semifinal. The key was to play long hours. They (Maharashtra) were not attacking the stumps. They were bowling at sixth and seventh stump. In fact, they were kind of playing into our hands. We were happy, leaving the balls and putting away the bad ones.”
A 190-run fourth wicket partnership between Karthik and Shankar laid the platform for a late assault, but Tamil Nadu remained circumspect. The former India stumper defended the approach.
“The reason being they were bowling far outside the off stump. It’s a kind of a pitch where if you slash, you might get a boundary but the chances of getting out is very high. We were happy to play at our own pace.”
Run-rate wise, things improved a little on Day 2 with Tamil Nadu adding 234 runs in 90 overs, taking their total to 426 for five at close. Ramaswamy Prasanna remained unbeaten on 64 with Indrajith for company on 68 not out. Together they’ve already added 107 runs for the sixth wicket.
Brief scores: Tamil Nadu 426/5 in 177 overs (Dinesh Karthik 113, Vijay Shankar 91; Chirag Khurana 1/64) vs Maharashtra.