Ranji Trophy 2023-24: Jalaj Saxena mesmerises for Kerala, takes seven wickets against hapless Bengal

Bengal’s worst fears came true after Tea on the second day of the Ranji Trophy cricket match against Kerala at the St.Xavier’s College ground on Saturday.

The pitch – which changed its character from batter-friendly to spin-friendly in the first session, seeing Kerala end its innings at 363 – offered generous bounce and turn. Jalaj Saxena, for the first time this season, hit form and, in a mesmerising spell (7/67), reduced Bengal to 172 for seven.

Karan Lal (22 batting) – who was bowled off a Jalaj no ball – and Suraj Sindhu Jaiswal (nine batting) added 21 runs for the ninth wicket.

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Jalaj was relentless and kept pitching the ball at the same spot from where it bounced and turned. He varied the pace and line to confuse the batter. Only opener Abhimanyu Easwaran looked capable of dealing with Jalaj’s variations.

But Easwaran, after parrying Jalaj for long, feathered a catch to Rohan Kunnummal at short-leg.

Easwaran’s dismissal opened the floodgates and Bengal batters fell like dead petals. Bengal collapsed from 107 for one to 151 for eight as Jalaj took all seven wickets. He also bowled Karan but overstepped to give a life to the batter.

Karan and Suraj added useful runs to frustrate Kerala in the final session.

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Early in the morning, Sachin Baby and Akshay Chandran batted without any alarms against the medium pacers and extended the fifth-wicket partnership to 179 runs. However, left-arm spinners Ankit Mishra and Shahbaz Ahmed relished the bounce on offer and made life difficult for Kerala batters.

Manoj Tiwary caught Sachin Baby in the slips as the ball turned and bounced. Azharuddeen (13) started off with a boundary but perished, trying to attack Mishra and was caught in the deep.

Akshay Chandran (106) completed his century but was bowled by Shahbaz. Kerala lost wickets in a hurry as it slumped to 324 for eight. But Basil Thampi (20) and N.P. Basil (16) added useful runs which propped up the total.

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