Leg-spinner Karn Sharma's joy knew no bounds when he beat Mahela Jayawardene with the line…
The pink ball made its India debut in the Duleep trophy encounter at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Stadium here on Tuesday, and lured the batsmen into playing in a manner that would horrify old timers.
While there were doubts about whether spotting the ball would be difficult, neither the pitch nor the ball held demons, even granted the seam on the Kookaburra may not have been prominently visible.
The batsmen, though, were intent on playing some ludicrous shots after India Red skipper Yuvraj Singh opted to bat.
And then, three floodlight towers lost power twice, first during the dinner break and then in the day’s final session, sending the organisers scurrying — teething issues, but impacting play for close to an hour.
After bowling India Red out for 161 in 48.2 overs, India Green was 116 for seven in 35 overs at the end of the extended session.
Cross-batted shots were the order of the day, with the exception of the immensely disciplined Abhinav Mukund.
The talented K. Bharat from Andhra attempted an uncharacteristic pull which ended in disaster. Further down the order, K.B. Arun Karthick — incredibly — slogged at an innocuous ball.
These two shots exemplified the approach of the batsmen: casual and unbecoming of the occasion.
The trend trickled down to the opposition too where a senior player like Suresh Raina was guilty of throwing his wicket away after looking set for a big score.
The pre-match apprehensions regarding the pitch and the ball were allayed as the day progressed and dusk descended.
The grass on the pitch was a mandated requirement to help the ball retain its gloss longer than usual.
The pitch played its part spiritedly. The ball tended to stop but it hustled through too.
There was something for everyone, except the few hundred spectators; they deserved better fare.
Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha managed to extract turn, even if minimal, to beat a well-set Abhinav, who inner-edged the ball onto his pads and finally the stumps.
On a pitch where the ball stopped initially it was a pleasant surprise to see Abhinav guide it to third man.
The ball sped to the boundary. It meant there were runs to be made if the batsmen were prepared to adopt the Abhinav way. He played the ball and ‘left’ it too, just the way a traditionalist would.
“The ball was holding and gripping but I could time my shots,” said Abhinav.
He strove to give the innings direction but was let down by his partners.
Yuvraj picked the man at square leg with a firm flick. Akshay Wakhare did the same. The agile fielder in both instances was Rajat Paliwal, who would later go on to play a reckless flick of his own.
Misplaced aggression showed India Red in poor light, but Abhinav’s 116-ball 77 (12×4) was a standout performance.
India Green seamer Sandeep Sharma’s was restrained effort, bowling within his limitation and not stretching to work up pace or bounce. Ankit Rajpoot looked menacing and Ojha was impressive too with his line.
“We were told the grass may not help spinners but the ball was gripping and I could turn some balls,” Ojha said.
The bowlers’ dominance continued as India Green batted too, through lively spells from Nathu Singh and chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav.
Raina promised to carry the innings but was beaten in the air and off the pitch after he shockingly stepped out.
India Red — 1st innings: K.S. Bharath c Uthappa b Sandeep Sharma 3 (20b), Abhinav Mukund b Ojha 77(116b, 12×4), Sudip Chatterjee c Parthiv b Sandeep Sharma 5 (17b, 1×4), Yuvraj Singh c Paliwal b Rajpoot 4 (9b), Gurkeerat Mann c Parthiv b Rajpoot 0 (2b), K.B. Arun Karthick c Gopal b Ohja 1 (12b), Akshay Wakhare c Paliwal b Dinda 7 (21b), Kuldeep Yadav b Sandeep Sharma 10 (53b), Anureet Singh c Tiwary b Sandeep Sharma 32 (21b, 6×4, 1×6), Ishwar Pandey b Ojha 17 (16b, 2×4, 1×6), Nathu Singh (not out) 0 (3b); Extras (lb-5): 5; Total (in 48.2 overs): 161.
Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-33, 3-38, 4-42, 5-49, 6-60, 7-94, 8-144, 9-144.
Green bowling: Ashoke Dinda 11-1-33-1, Sandeep Sharma 15-3-62-4, Ankit Rajpoot 8-3-16-2, Pragyan Ojha 5.2-0-19-3, Jalaj Saxena 7-2-10-0, Shreyas Gopal 2-0-16-0.
India Green — 1st innings: Robin Uthappa b Nathu 1 (7b), Jalaj Saxena c Bharath b Nathu 10 (18b, 1×4), Parthiv Patel c Bharat b Kuldeep 24 (65b, 2×4), Rajat Paliwal lbw b Nathu 1 (4b), Suresh Raina b Kuldeep 35 (56b, 5×4), Saurabh Tiwary (batting) 27 (38b, 5×4), Shreyas Gopal c Yuvraj b Kuldeep 0 (3b), Sandeep Sharma run out 3 (13b), Ashoke Dinda (batting) 8 (13b 1×4), Extras (lb-1, nb-6) 7; Total (for seven wkts in 35 overs) 116.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-25, 3-31, 4-72, 5-87, 6-87, 7-100.
Red bowling: Anureet Singh 7-0-30-0, Nathu Singh 7-0-32-3, Kuldeep Yadav 13-4-26-3, Ishwar Pandey 5-0-19-0, Wakhare 3-0-8-0.
Toss: India Red.