Round three of the Ranji Trophy season culminated with some keenly-fought contests and a number of eye-catching performances with the bat as well as the ball.
Karnataka’s Karun Nair produced a gritty century to keep his India aspirations afloat. Tamil Nadu’s Yo Mahesh smashed a ton after making a comeback to first-class cricket after five years in the wilderness. Hanuma Vihari notched up the season’s second triple century and journeyman Jalaj Saxena continued to top the wicket-taking charts with another 10-wicket match haul.
Here’s a look at the highlights of round three.
Triple ton for Vihari
Andhra captain Hanuma Vihari smashed his first triple-hundred in a high-scoring encounter between his side and Odisha.
This was the second triple ton this season in just three rounds. Vihari’s unbeaten 302 followed a 150 against Baroda in the previous round. The Andhra skipper began the season with a below average performance against Tamil Nadu, but has since upped his game and only gotten better with each innings. Against Odisha, he was at the crease for 11 hours and smashed 29 boundaries and two sixes while he was there.
Vihari’s two triple-digit scores this season, though, have not translated in victories for his team. But, looking at his form, the results might just fall their way in the coming rounds.
And here’s some additional reading on the increasing frequency of triple centuries in Ranji Trophy.
Jalaj Saxena rekindles India hopes
Jalaj Saxena has been on the upswing this season. The all-rounder currently sits on top of the wicket-takers chart with 26 wickets including two five wicket-hauls and two ten-wicket match hauls.
Leading Kerala’s charge against Rajasthan, Saxena produced an all-round show, impressing with an eight-wicket haul followed by an unbeaten ton in the second innings. The effort saw Kerala romp to 131-run win.
Coming on board as a guest player for Kerala last season, Saxena has made most of the opportunity. While injuries affected him during the previous season, this time around, the 30-year-old has come out all guns blazing. He led the team to victory in their opening clash against Jharkhand only to replicate his effort against Rajasthan and prove it was not a one-off.
“Last season, I injured my index finger after a few matches. Even after I came back from the injury I was not able to bowl at the same level as I did previously. I’m so happy that this season has started so well for me and my target remains the same. To win as many matches as possible and qualify for the knockouts,” the Madhya Pradesh lad was quoted as saying by the Times of India on Wednesday.
Yo Mahesh makes impressive return
Tamil Nadu’s V Yo Mahesh made a fine return to first class cricket with a gritty rear-guard century against Mumbai. Playing for Tamil Nadu for the first time in five years, the all-rounder gave a great display of what he can offer after coming into bat at number nine during his team’s first innings to score a vital century.
His unbeaten 103, not only frustrated the Mumbai bowlers, but handed his side a commanding total of 450 – and the first innings lead that guaranteed 3 points – after team-mate B Indrajith had laid the base with a fine 152-run knock.
Yo Mahesh had not been a part of the Tamil Nadu Ranji set up since 2014, after requiring surgeries in both his knees. He only made it to the squad this season after bowling coach L Balaji brought him in to bowl in the nets ahead of the season. Doors opened for him to make the squad after a spate of injuries left the Tamil Nadu pace attack light.
Yo Mahesh finally got his chance against Mumbai following an absence from the Ranji circuit for nearly half a decade. He bagged two wickets on the opening day. The highlight, though, was his fighting ton that not only helped his side gain the first innings lead, but also gave them a sign of victory that was doused only by a determined batting effort by the Mumbai batsmen in their second innings.
Karun Nair grinds through
Karun Nair returned to form with a patient hundred as Karnataka pulled of a 59-run win against Hyderabad. Out-of-reckoning with the India squad, Nair has been off colour since his triple century against England in December last year.
The middle-order batsman has since fallen out of favour with India selectors and is looking to get back among the runs. A quiet Indian Premier League season only compounded his woes. The quest has been a hard one for the Karnataka lad. The Duleep Trophy had come as a welcome relief as scored a ton for India green against Red.
His 134 off 229 balls for Karnataka has come at an opportune time, considering his waning star. The 25-year-old produced a confident performance against Hyderabad. Batting with his side four down for 57, Nair showcased a gritty display and steered the side to an advantageous position in the keenly-fought contest. The knock proved crucial in the context of the game with Hyderabad staging a fine come-back of their own in the second essay. Fortunately for Karnataka, their bowling attack held up their end of the bargain to seal a fine win.
Iyer, Herwadkar show character
Mumbai’s Shreyas Iyer and Akhil Herwadkar showed their class with impressive centuries against an R Ashwin-led Tamil Nadu bowling attack in their group C Ranji Trophy encounter in Mumbai.
Iyer was in his element as he notched up a fine 138, while Herwadkar dusted off a first innings duck to score a fighting 132 in Mumbai’s second innings.
The 22-year-old Iyer left the Tamil Nadu bowling attack frustrated as the game petered to a draw. Ashwin finished the second innings wicketless as all his ploys were left deflated by Iyer and Herwadkar, who shared a partnership of 187 runs for the second wicket.
Herwadkar, 22, is looking to cement his place in the much sought-after opening slot of the Mumbai batting line-up with stiff competition from youngsters Prithvi Shaw and Jay Bista. While Shaw has made one slot his own with a string of impressive knocks, the other slot is up for grabs. The 132-run knock will go a long way in Herwadkar’s bid to secure his place after being left out of the Mumbai playing XI in their previous game against Madhya Pradesh where Bista had also stroked a ton.