Rest of India 298 for 8 (Sudharsan 72, Bharat 36, Bhut 4-85) vs Saurashtra
Sudharsan’s dismissal led to a wobble – Rest of India lost 3 for 22 – but handy contributions from the lower order dragged them closer to 300 by stumps on the first day.
Sudharsan set the base, forging a 69-run opening partnership with Mayank Agarwal after Rest of India won what could be a crucial toss on a difficult surface. Sudharsan was fairly watchful in the early exchanges against domestic veteran Jaydev Unadkat, but then set to work with a Sadagoppan Ramesh-esque flick off Chirag Jani in the sixth over.
Saurashtra introduced spin in the form of Dharmendrasinh Jadeja as early as the ninth over and paired him up with Yuvrajsinh Dodiya. With two slips and a silly point in place, Dodiya went around the wicket and regularly found purchase to threaten Sudharsan’s outside edge, but the batter patiently let those go outside off. As for Agarwal, he briefly attacked the spinners with sweeps before Jadeja had him looping a bat-pad catch to slip for 32.
Sudharsan could’ve also been dismissed on 23, when Dodiya drew him out of the crease, but Harvik Desai, the wicketkeeper, missed the stumping chance. Sudharsan then tightened up: he was either right forward or right back to deal with spin and waited for loose balls. And when they came, he put them away with drives and flicks. One such flick brought him his half-century before lunch.
Either side of the lunch break, Unadkat found some sharp inswing and had a silly mid-on in place, but Sudharsan did not fall into that trap. He also added 69 for the second wicket with Hanuma Vihari before the Rest of India captain spooned left-arm fingerspinner Parth Bhut to Samarth Vyas at silly point. Bhut later got rid of Sudharsan and Yash Dhull to expose the lower-middle order.
KS Bharat and Shams Mulani then made counterattacking thirties to help Rest of India regain some lost ground. Uttar Pradesh’s Saurabh Kumar frustrated Saurashtra even further with a more sedate 30 not out.
In all, the seamers bowled just 16 out of the 90 overs on the first day, with the spin trio of Bhut, Jadeja and Dodiya putting in big shifts. Rest of India also have three spinners at their disposal – Saurabh, Mulani and Pulkit Narang – and they will also have a major role to play on a pitch that will slow down as the game progresses.