Crisis man Sachin Baby enacted the role he had become so familiar this season to lift Kerala from 19 for four to 254 for six at stumps at the end of the opening day’s play against Services in the Ranji Trophy cricket match at the KCA-St.Xavier’s College ground here on Tuesday.
Sachin Baby’s second century of the season (133 batting) and his three half-century stands – 96 for the fifth wicket with Salman Niza (42), 65 for the sixth wicket with Akshay Chandran (32) and an unbeaten 74 run partnership for the seventh wicket with captain Sijomon Joseph (29 batting) – propped up the Kerala innings.
The Services medium pacers Diwesh Pathania (2/31) and P.S. Poonia (2/35) exploited the helpful conditions to rock the Kerala innings early. The makeshift opening pair of P.Rahul and Jalaj Saxena lasted just three overs with Pathania trapping Jalaj (8) in front. Poonia sent back both P.Rahul (0) and Rohan Prem (1) in similar fashion to reduce the host to 10 for three. Vathsal Govind (1) failed on his comeback to leave Kerala reeling at 19 for four.
But Sachin Baby was willing to play the waiting game. After the wicket eased out and conditions became a little easier to bat, Sachin punished the loose balls and rotated the strike with Salman Nizar, who played the big shots early, to take the attack to the rival camp.
The fifth wicket pair steadily added 96 runs but Arpit Guleria got the breakthrough when he forced Salman to nibble at an outswinger and was caught by wicketkeeper L.S. Kumar.
Kerala dominated play in the post lunch session with the sixth wicket pair of Akshay Chandran and Sachin Baby negotiating the Services attack without much fuss. Akshay played fluently for his 32. However, a lapse in concentration saw Akshay lose his wicket to part-time spinner Rajat Paliwal just before tea. Captain Sijomon Joseph put a price on his wicket and despite looking ungainly, hung around with Sachin Baby in the last session to frustrate the visitor.
Kerala- Ist innings
P.Rahul lbw Poonia 0, Jalaj Saxena lbw Pathania 8, Rohan Prem lbw Poonia 1; Vathsal Govind c Kumar b Pathania 1, Sachin Baby batting 133, Salman Nizar c Kumar b Arpit 42, Akshay Chandran c Rohilla b Paliwal 32, Sijomon Joseph batting 29
Extras (b 3, lb 3, nb 2): 8
Total (for six wkts. in 90 overs): 254
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-9, 3-10, 4-19, 5-115, 6-180
Pathania 13-4-31-2, Poonia 16-5-35-2, Arpit 14-1-48-1, Narang 25-3-70-0, Rathee 17-0-57-0, Paliwal 5-1-7-1.