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Slow and steady dulls the race

cricket Updated: Jan 20, 2012 23:26 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
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In the era of T20 cricket and flamboyant shot- making, the Rajasthan batsmen placed their team on the verge of a consecutive Ranji Trophy crown with a game-plan built around discipline and patience.

On a MA Chidambaram Stadium track, which was slow and difficult for stroke-play, the defending champions showed the mental toughness to grind it out for two days without losing focus to reach 404/2 against Tamil Nadu on Friday.

Double for Saxena
The star of the innings was double centurion Vineet Saxena (207 no), who even after spending 747 minutes at the crease, has shown few signs of losing concentration.

Resuming at 221 for no loss, Rajasthan lost opener Aakash Chopra (94) early in the day but there was little respite for the Tamil Nadu bowlers.

Saxena, who became the 20th batsman to score a double ton in a Ranji final, continued from where he left off.

The 31-year-old blocked everything thrown at him in the morning session, and in the company of captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar, ensured that the hosts never came back into the match with a 126-run stand for the second wicket.

The duo added just 51 in the first session as Tamil Nadu bowled to a plan in the hope that the Rajasthan batsmen would make mistakes in their attempt to score. But that did not happen.

Rock solid
Saxena dropped anchor till the spinners were forced to give more flight, and then pounced on the opportunity to hit M Vijay for a couple of fours and then danced down the track to Sunny Gupta just before tea.

Even Kanitkar started to play freely as Rajasthan scored at almost three runs per over till the skipper's fall put breaks on the proceedings after tea.

Neither Saxena nor Robin Bisht, the tournament's highest scorer, could pick gaps and an outside edge off Kaushik made Saxena the second Rajasthan batsman, after Hanumant Singh, to score a double century in a Ranji final.

However, it was baffling to see the batsman struggle to score in the final session against a bowling unit which had spent two days on the field, and the team managed just 183 in the entire day.

Opener Chopra defended the batsmen, saying it was not easy to score.

"I know it is not good cricket to watch. But all we are trying to do is to be there and not lose wickets. There is no pace or bounce in the wicket. Not even a single cover drive or straight drive has reached the fence and that tells you the story," he said.