When India Red pacer Nathu Singh claimed his second first-class five-wicket haul on Day Two against India Green on Wednesday, it seemed the Duleep Trophy opener would end within three days. In less than four sessions, 20 wickets were down and pacers from either side were making an impression with the pink ball.
However, India Red opener Abhinav Mukund and Sudip Chatterjee both scored centuries to bring the domination of bowlers with the pink to a halt.
The left-handed Mukund was the only batsman to counter the swing, seam and bounce in the first innings, scoring a dogged 77. He was far more authoritative in the second innings with the talented Bengal batsman for company.
Mukund’s unbeaten 162 gave India Red a 354-run lead, but Green paid for dropping the Tamil Nadu batsman twice before he had reached his century.
Chatterjee raced to his sixth first-class century (114) as both batsmen played at a brisk pace, raising 240 runs together.
After both pacers and spinners benefitted on the opening day, the ball didn’t swing or seam as much. “He saw off the new ball and played even better in the second session. He was confident and timed the ball well. Picked the length and line early,” said Robin Uthappa, the India Green opener.
It is a season of experiment in India cricket as the Ranji Trophy matches are to be played on neutral venues. Mukund would be happy to have started well against the pink ball. He last played for India on the 2011 tour of England before being dropped. In the Duleep Trophy, his eagerness for a comeback is evident. His 22nd first-class hundred was an example of his improvement in the last five years.
Once set, he played attacking shots, including the upper cut as the pacers struggled for movement under the lights. It was in contrast to the prodigious movement of the pink ball under lights.
But Mukund innings had a few chances. Thrice in the second innings, he lost his focus. Twice he was dropped at slip by Suresh Raina, off Pragyan Ojha on 66 and off Jalaj Saxena on 92. Then on 98, he fished at an outgoing delivery from Ankit Rajpoot and was fortunate to survive. Then he went back to the basics. Off the next ball, he shouldered arms. He brought up his century with a wristy flick for two runs.
If Mukund continues to impress throughout the tournament, he can look forward to be in contention as India are due to play a lot of Tests in the home season.
Brief Scores: India Red 161 (Abhinav Mukund 77, Sandeep Sharma 4/62, Ankit Rajpoot 2/16, Pragyan Ojha 3/19) and 344/3 (A Mukund 162 batting, Sudip Chatterjee 114); India Green 151 (Saurabh Tiwary 50, Nathu Singh 6/53).