B. Aparajith is not going to forget this hot day at the Sawai Mansing Stadium in a hurry.
After registering career-best bowling figures, he scored a neatly-paced hundred to ensure that Tamil Nadu’s record in the Vijay Hazare Trophy tournament remained as impressive as his form.
Aparajith’s superb show (four for 30 and 111 not out) helped the southern powerhouse to score an eight-wicket win over Railways with 5.5 overs to spare. And just a couple of days ago, he had lost his paternal grandfather.
With seven wins in as many matches from Group C, Tamil Nadu has already booked a place in the knock-out stage. It has now 28 points from seven games, four more than Gujarat, which also has a cent per cent record, though it has played a match less.
In this game, the Railway men weren’t expected to stretch Tamil Nadu. With the way they batted — after winning the toss — they more or less made it certain that there would be little scope for any twist in the script.
Class and experience
You can’t set a target of 201 for a batting line up that oozes as much class and experience as Tamil Nadu. Not even the early loss of the openers, Abhinav Mukund and M. Vijay, could make any impact on the chase.
When Tamil Nadu was reduced to 17 for two, the Railway men may have felt they were still in the game. Before long, however, their hopes faded; they were forced to chase the ball all around the ground. Aparajith (124b, 7×4, 1×6) and Vijay Shankar (113b, 3×4, 1×6) also showed them how to execute a chase with precision.
The duo put on 186 for the unfinished third-wicket. Vijay Shankar also gave enough strike to Aparajith, who finally got a well-deserved hundred, after making four fifties in the competition. Determination and fluent drives through the off-side were the features of his batting.
Earlier in the day, it was his off-spin that derailed the Railways’ batting. Pratham Singh and Devdhar had negotiated the seam attack of Vijay Shankar and K. Vignesh on a greenish-looking track when Aparajith came on as the first change.
The opening wicket was worth 39 in eight overs when Aparajith bowled a ball that turned just enough to clean up Devdhar. What followed was an inept effort from the Railways batsmen.
Though Pratham (43, 56b) gave hopes of a reasonable score, Railways was let down by the painfully slow batting of Manish Rao and skipper Arindam Ghosh. Adding to the woes was another tidy effort by the Tamil Nadu bowlers, spearheaded by Aparajith, who is now the leading scorer in the tournament with 439 runs, with an average of 109.75.