Ranji Trophy 2022-23, 1st Round Recap: Youngsters Impress, Tamil Nadu Nearly Pull Off a Stunning Heist

The first round of Ranji Trophy 2022-23 got over on Friday and India’s premier domestic tournament couldn’t have asked for a better start as there were results in 12 out of the 19 fixtures played. Defending champions Madhya Pradesh got their campaign off to a dominating start as they registered a bonus-point win over Jammu & Kashmir and last year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy champions Himachal Pradesh outplayed Haryana and pocketed seven crucial points. It was disappointment galore for teams like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as the two sides were thumped in their respective season opener.

A handicapped Delhi unit didn’t have a seamer on the park for the final day as Ishant Sharma, Mayank Yadav & Simarjeet Singh (bowled only two overs) were not fit to bowl. The side tasted a nine-wicket defeat against Maharashtra while Uttar Pradesh went down to a resilient Bengal on a lively Eden Gardens strip. Still early days in the tournament but the seven-time Ranji winners Delhi need to sort their bowling and opening woes else the wait for the title is likely to be extended by another year.

When it comes to the wait for the title, Tamil Nadu, who last won the trophy in 1987-88 season, are looking a different beast this time around. Right from the word go, the Baba Indrajith-led unit pressed for a result and were agonisingly close to pulling off a heist before bad light forced stumps. Sai Sudarshan and N Jagadeesan fired TN, chasing 144 in 11 overs, to 108/1 in just 7 overs before the reading on the light meter denied what could have been one of the greatest chases in the history of the competition.

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As the teams now head into a little break before the second round gets underway on December 20, here’s a quick recap what happened:

Played, skip! Plenty of captains led from the front in their sides’ season openers. Faiz Fazal returned to lead Vidarbha and immediately stamped authority with hundred in each innings vs Railways. The losing camp saw skipper leg-spinner Karn Sharma steal the show with figures of 8/38 in first innings. In Abhimanyu Easwaran’s absence (he’s with the Indian team for Bangladesh Tests), domestic giant Manoj Tiwary scored a solid fifty in the fourth innings of Bengal vs Uttar Pradesh fixture. The game was dominated by bowlers of both the sides but Tiwary used all his experience during the 257-run chase.

For Gujarat captain Priyank Panchal it was business as usual as he scored 111 and 85 against Tripura in the drawn game. The second innings knock was a special as he rescued the side from a tricky position and helped them pocket three points on the basis of first innings lead.

The waiting list: The Ranji Trophy squad features a lot of names who are either waiting for game time with the Indian team or looking to stage a comeback. The likes of Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane turned up for their respective state sides but weren’t quite able to make a loud noise. Opener Mayank managed 8 & 73 vs Services, Vihari scored 27 & 14 and Rahane scored 44 in his only outing vs Andhra.

The Jharkhand vs Kerala fixture saw two Indian wicketkeepers waiting to get an extended run in white-ball circuit with the senior team. Sanju Samson, leading Kerala, scored 72 & 15 while Ishan Kishan, fresh from the double hundred vs Bangladesh in the third ODI, returned with 132 and 22. For Madhya Pradesh, Avesh Khan bagged a fifer – 5/33 – in the first innings vs J&K and the skilful seamer added three more wickets to his tally in the second innings.

Seamless transition: Sai Sudarshan, N Jagadeesan, Abhishek Sharma and Riyan Parag continued from where they left in the white-ball tournaments and have made an impact in the opening round. Sudarshan oozed class on debut with 221 runs from two innings, Abhishek, one of the few top-order batters in the circuit who can bowl regularly, and effectively, continued with his consistency for Punjab, Jagadeesan was back to doing Jagadeesan things – scoring hundreds and Parag, who had a splendid Vijay Hazare season with Assam, accumulated 171 runs in the two innings he played vs Saurashtra. He was handy with the ball too and returned with figures of 4/119.

UP seamer Shivam Mavi, who has had an injury-hit career so far, is enjoying game time and exhibiting a lot consistency with both red and white ball. The Vijay Hazare Trophy saw him take 14 wickets and he broke Bengal’s back with 6/55 in the first innings of the Ranji Trophy fixture.

Keep an eye on: Saurashtra’s Jay Gohil has made instant impact with the senior team and the 22-year-old, after a good run with the U-25 team in the one-dayers, has played some crucial knocks for the team. A 34 against Tamil Nadu in VHT quarters, 61 vs a good Karnataka attack in the semis and now 227 vs Assam on his First Class debut. The state and senior players in the team rate the right-hander very highly and is certainly one for the future!

Rinku Singh, UP’s crisis man for years now, continues doing business lower down the order for an inexperienced unit. In their opening fixture, where the top-order was back in the hut early, the left-hander scored 79 and 89 at No.5. In his 34-match FC career, the 25-year old averages a whopping 60.48 and has already hit 5 hundreds and 19 half-centuries. Four of these hundreds came in the 2018-19 season where he accumulated 953 runs in ten matches. He was rewarded with India A call for the 2019 series against Sri Lanka A but his participation in Abu Dhabi Cricket’s Ramadan T20 Cup without permission from the BCCI led to a three-month ban, and he was dropped from the India A squad.

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