One of the strengths of Ruturaj Gaikwad is his minimalistic game that can satisfy the puritans for its technical correctness while being aggressive to meet the demands of the modern game.
On Tuesday, he produced one such knock, scoring a brilliant unbeaten 118 (126b, 16×4, 3×6) to guide Maharashtra to a formidable 350 for six against Tamil Nadu on day one of the Ranji Trophy (Elite B) clash here at the MCA International Stadium.
Right from the start, Gaikwad was in complete control and quickly went after L. Vignesh, hitting him for four boundaries, two of which were with his now trademark sweep off the pacer.
But soon after that, the opener had to retire due to discomfort in his forearm when he was on 23.
After he returned, he found good support from the left-handed Azim Kazi (87 n.o., 119b, 6×4, 4×6), another batter who had to battle discomfort and retired briefly after twisting his ankle.
Earlier, Kedar Jadhav (56) and Ankeet Bawane (45) had an 81-run stand for the third wicket and set a good platform for the host.
Tamil Nadu fought back in the second session to have Maharashtra in trouble at 208 for six at Tea before Gaikwad and Kazi took the game away with an unbroken 142-run stand for the seventh wicket.
Be it neatly timed drives through the off-side, using his feet against the spinners or pulling the pacers, Gaikwad was largely untroubled during his knock.
The aggressive Kazi started by pulling Sandeep Warrier for two sixes before his injury. Despite struggling with his running, Kazi never held back after returning to the crease and found the boundaries easily.
After winning the toss, TN failed to make good use of the conditions and now faces an uphill task in a must-win game. The team also floundered tactically by only utilising the fifth bowler S. Ajith Ram in the 70th over of the day, when Gaikwad and Kazi were well set.
Maharashtra – 1st innings: Ruturaj Gaikwad not out 118, Siddhesh Veer (run out) 9, Rahul Tripathi c Jagadeesan b Vignesh 7, Kedar Jadhav lbw b Vijay Shankar 56, Ankeet Bawane c Ajith Ram b Warrier 45, Azim Kazi not out 87, Saurabh Navale c Indrajith b Vignesh 5, Ashay Palkar c Indrajith b Sai Kishore 11; Extras (lb-5, w-7): 12; Total (for six wkts., in 83 overs): 350.
Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-45, 3-126, 4-159, 5-185, 6-208.
Tamil Nadu Bowling: Vignesh 17-1-80-2, Warrier 20-4-72-1, Crist 10-1-29-0, Sai Kishore 15-0-65-1, Vijay Shankar 10-1-41-1, Aparajith 4-0-22-0, Ajith Ram 6-1-35-0, Pradosh 1-0-1-0.