A fit-again Navdeep Saini bowled a brisk first spell to rattle the Madhya Pradesh top-order after Yash Dhull‘s quick half-century took Rest of India to a commanding 484 on the second day of the Irani Cup in Gwalior on Thursday. Saini (2/15) looked in good rhythm and generated fair bit of pace on a dead track to peg MP back before Yash Dubey (53 batting) and Harsh Gawli (47 batting) added 97 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket to take the hosts to 112 for 3 in their first innings at stumps.
In a match like Irani Cup, the national selectors usually don’t just look at the numbers but also at specific players with specific purpose.
One such player is Saini, who missed the entire Ranji Trophy season due to abdominal muscle strain and had to undergo extensive rehabilitation work at the National Cricket Academy (NCA).
Asked to bowl in the second session of the day, he did hurry the MP batters with pace and movement off the track.
It was Bengal seamer Mukesh Kumar (1/27), who got the first breakthrough for the Rest as he angled one across for debutant southpaw Arham Aquil (0), who clearly didn’t look ready for this level during his brief stay at the crease.
He didn’t look happy with the caught-behind decision but had to trudge back without troubling the scorers.
Saini then got into the act as he bowled beautifully on the off-stump channel and just got enough movement to force the batters to play his deliveries.
A hint of an away movement saw MP skipper Himanshu Mantri jab at the delivery and Dhull, nicely warmed up and alert at second slip, pulled off a good catch.
Subham Sharma (4) got a boundary but never looked comfortable against Saini, whose nip-backer was good enough to find him plumb in-front.
However once the ball started getting older, Dubey and Gawli didn’t face too many problems in negotiating the other bowlers.
The track has nothing in it for the bowlers and while the MP duo didn’t have the range and flair of players like Yashasvi Jaiswal and Abhimanyu Easwaran, they didn’t find bowlers other than Saini very difficult to negotiate.
The third medium pacer Atit Seth wasn’t intimidating and bowled enough loose balls to be punished.
With the pitch showing no signs of wear and tear, India A left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar also didn’t trouble the MP batters as there was hardly any deviation from track on offer.
Rest failed to get a breakthrough during the final session of the day but are favourites to get a huge first-innings lead as MP still need 373 runs to get ahead.
Earlier in the day, only Dhull showed positive intent with 55 off 71 balls that had eight fours to his credit.
But Rest batters after a total domination on day one couldn’t replicate that show as they lost seven wickets for 107 runs.
Dhull played some good strokes on both flanks but his innings needs to be put in perspective as he came into bat at No. 6 on flattest of decks with no scoreboard pressure as nearly 400 had been put by the defending champions.
Madhya Pradesh 1st Innings: 112/3 in 43 overs (Yash Dubey 53, Navdeep Saini 2/15).
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