| Sadagopan Ramesh hit a chancy 85 in Mumbai Monday. He was dropped on 15 and then again on 28. (PTI)
Mumbai: Sadagopan Ramesh struck a chancy 85 as Tamil Nadu reached 223 for four in reply to Mumbai’s modest first innings total of 260 on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy final Monday.
After terminating the Mumbai innings with the last ball of the very first over in the morning, Tamil Nadu came under pressure with skipper S. Suresh falling early.
But Ramesh anchored the innings with three useful partnerships.
The former India opener — dropped on 15 by Paras Mhambrey and again on 28 by Ramesh Powar — added 68 for the second wicket with S. Sriram, 59 for the third with S. Badrinath and 71 for the fifth with Hemang Badani.
Tamil Nadu’s most experienced batsman S. Sharath was keeping Badani company at close with the latter having already compiled a patient 45. Ajit Agarkar and Sairaj Bahutule were the successful bowlers for Mumbai with two wickets each.
The normally fluent Ramesh laboured for more than five hours and 202 balls. He fell within sight of a century, edging former India leg-spinner Bahutule to Amol Muzumdar in the slips.
The 27-year-old, who last played for the national team in Sri Lanka almost two years ago, was the fastest Indian opener after Sunil Gavaskar to reach 1,000 Test runs but has been struggling since.
Ramesh’s effort kept Tamil Nadu afloat against a potentially strong Mumbai attack including Agarkar and Avishkar Salvi — both having represented India in the Dhaka tri-series recently.
Sriram chipped in with a valuable 82-ball 26 and Badrinath scored a breezy 42 to help their team get closer to the Mumbai total and look for a handy first innings lead, if possible.
The left-handed Badani, another Test discard, was batting well and struck six fours including two straight drives against off-spinner Powar.
The visitors could have found themselves in a better situation but were pegged back at times by their defensive approach.
After taking lunch at 84 for two, the visitors managed just 52 in the next 30 overs.
Ramesh and Badrinath were too cautious against some steady bowling that was often let down by poor fielding. The second session witnessed not a single boundary for 95 minutes before Ramesh broke the deadlock with a lofted drive off Powar.
Though Mhambrey used his bowlers from different ends, Mumbai were denied success for a long while until Bahutule got one to kick off the good length which took the handle of Badrinath’s bat on way to Vinayak Mane at forward short-leg.
Badani survived a chance on 29 when Bahutule failed to latch on to an uppish drive with the total reading 186 for three. Badani opened up after this and slammed Powar over mid-wicket and drove Bahutule with commendable authority.
However, a collision between Badani and Powar with the former going for a single, turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the hosts.
Badani needed treatment which interrupted play and more importantly, broke Ramesh’s rhythm.
Ramesh, who was completely set by then, lost concentration and his attempted drive off Bahutule went straight to Muzumdar at slips after taking the outside edge.
For Mumbai, Agarkar bowled his heart out but missed support from the other end with both Salvi and Mhambrey lacking in penetration. Mumbai will look for early wickets on the third day to stay in the contest.
They will be reasonably happy if they can keep Tamil Nadu’s lead to 50 and then set them a tricky target on what appears to be steadily deteriorating pitch.