Bangalore: A five-wicket burst from Umesh Yadav in the final session undid the hard work done by centurion Robin Bist – the previous Ranji Trophy season's highest run-scorer – as defending champions Rajasthan were bowled out for 253 on day one of the 2012 Irani Trophy, the curtain-raiser to India's domestic first-class season.
Having opted to field, Rest of India's (ROI) bowling attack – with three India representatives in Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha – was made to toil for the first two sessions until a dramatic collapse of six wickets for 35 runs changed the tone of the day.
Twenty-five minutes into the evening session, at 218 for 4, Rajasthan were in a comfortable position but that all changed in a matter of minutes. In his second over of a potentially match-turning spell (7-2-18-5), Yadav won a dubious lbw appeal against Dishant Yagnik (40) to snap a 67-run alliance. The next ball, Deepak Chahar poked unconvincingly to Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps. Madhur Khatri – in his first first-class outing since November 2011 – survived the hat-trick delivery but didn't last long; in Yadav’s next over he too edged to Saha for 0.
Bist had been in the nineties throughout this collapse, and reached his century in fortuitous manner with a top-edge off Yadav to fine leg four. But he had little time to celebrate, as Yadav picked up his fourth when Gajendra Singh edged second slip and celebrated with five when Aniket Choudhary was bowled for 0 (238 for 9). Sumit Mathur's run out ended the innings on 253 shortly before stumps, leaving Bist stranded on a superb 117 off 187 balls.
In the remaining over before stumps, ROI scored two runs.
Earlier, the day had began positively for ROI as Vineet Saxena – he of the double-century in last season’s final – fell for 0 in Ishant's third over. Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the former India international, played out 48 balls for 8 before playing down the wrong line to Stuart Binny in the 21st over. Soon after, Binny extracted the obdurate Ankit Lamba when the batsman drove to Ajinkya Rahane at gully.
Bist, however, proved of a different mettle and with Rashmi Parida added 105 for the fourth wicket. Bist began the afternoon by hitting Harmeet Singh for four first ball, a shot that set the tone for a busy session; in 91 balls, he scored 63 runs and slowed only once Parida was dismissed.
His footwork was particularly eye-catching against spin, as he hit Harmeet for two sixes down the ground and played Ojha with confidence, the pick of his shots against the left-armer being a lofted drive over extra cover. Bist’s handling of Yadav was also impressive, as he scored 40 runs off 55 balls faced by the fast bowler.
Parida - one of just two remaining professionals in the Rajasthan team after Aakash Chopra's switching to Himachal Pradesh during the offseason – was impressive in with his back-foot play to the spinners, as indicated by four boundaries in the arc between point and short third man. However, his decision to leave the seventh ball of Ishant's new spell turned to be a fatal move, as Parida was bowled while shouldering arms (151 for 4).
Bist and Dishant Yagnik proceeded to add 33 runs at a brisk 3.35 per over up until tea and looked set to put on a lot more until Yadav perked up ROI. If Rajasthan are to defend their title in the absence of Chopra, it appears Bist will need to carry them throughout the season.
Brief scores: v Rest of India 2 for 0 in one over trail Rajasthan 253 (Robin Bist 117*, Dishant Yagnik 40, Rashmi Parida 34, Ankit Lamba 29; Umesh Yadav 5/55, Ishant Sharma 2/17, Stuart Binny 2/18) by 251 runs.