Chennai: A maiden first-class double-century from Vineet Saxena, spanning 555 deliveries and six sessions, carried Rajasthan to 404 for 2 at stumps on day two of the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy final at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
Having added 236 for the opening wicket with Aakash Chopra, who was dismissed six short of three figures, a dogged Saxena put on 126 in 50.5 overs with Hrishikesh Kanitkar before putting on 42 in 23.2 overs with Robin Bist. Tamil Nadu threw everything they had at Saxena but he was immovable.
Saxena came into this match averaging 35.43 in first-class cricket, and by the time stumps were drawn that had been inflated to 37.06. Resuming the day on 120, he crossed his previous best of 143 and guided Rajasthan into an utterly dominant position. During the course of his innings, Saxena moved past seven batsmen to reach the third spot in this season's highest run-scorers. His unbeaten 207 was just the second double-century by a Rajasthan batsman in a Ranji final, and the first for any team since Rahul Dravid scored 215 for Karnataka against Uttar Pradesh in 1997-98.
It was another day of toil for Tamil Nadu. After 627 deliveries, they had their first breakthrough in the morning when left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas snapped a 236-run opening partnership. With his first ball of the day – in the 105th over – Srinivas trapped Chopra (94) on the back-foot with a quicker one. That, however, was as good as it got for TN during an attritional morning session which saw 51 runs scored in 36 overs. The first ten overs produced six runs, and overall Rajasthan hit just four boundaries in the first session.
Chopra's wicket brought to the crease Rajasthan's captain Kanitkar, who was away third ball with a couple runs through midwicket. Srinivas repeatedly asked questions of the batsmen – he had two very good appeals against Kanitkar in one over – but the wickets eluded the home team. Tamil Nadu’s seamers operated with a full or good-length line outside the off stump in a ploy to tempt expansive drives, but Saxena and Kanitkar were resolute.
After at mind-numbing morning session, Rajasthan switched gears after lunch to score 90 off 29 overs in the afternoon. Where just four boundaries were scored in the first session, Rajasthan collected nine to go with the six in the afternoon. They added nine runs to their total in the second over after lunch, courtesy a lovely back-foot punch for four by Kanitkar and four overthrows the next ball. Kanitar cut and drove well, and reached his half-century off 104 balls with the help of five boundaries.
Saxena continued to leave regularly and pulled out the flamboyant shots mostly against the spinners: he drove Srinivas through the covers to raise his 150 and twice dispatched Murali Vijay's innocuous offspin to the extra-cover boundary in one over. On 178, he even sauntered out of his crease to loft Sunny Gupta over midwicket for six, the first of the match.
Kanitkar took a cue and hit two boundaries off Srinivas, coming down the track and going over the legside. He was dismissed early into the final session, edging Gupta into Dinesh Karthik's gloves for 67 off 146 balls. That gave Karthik his 250th dismissal in first-class cricket.
Bist, the season's highest run-getter, followed the same route as his senior batsmen. He showed little urgency in his batting, and patiently batted 74 balls for 16 runs as Rajasthan scored 42 runs in 25 overs.
At 3:54 pm, a thick outside edge to third man for four took Saxena to 200 off 524 deliveries. There was little reaction, just a raising of the bat to his team-mates. Then it was back to marking his guard. Clearly, Saxena had more on his mind.
Double-centuries in Ranji Trophy finals
Gul Mohammad (319) Baroda v Holkar, 1946-47
Vijay Hazare (288) Baroda v Holkar, 1946-47
Vijay Merchant (278) Mumbai v Holkar, 1944-45
Ashok Mankad (265) Mumbai v Delhi, 1980-81
Denis Compton (249) Holkar v Mumbai, 1944-45
Gundappa Viswanath (247) Karnataka v Uttar Pradesh, 1977-78
Ajit Wadekar (235) Mumbai v Rajasthan, 1961-62
Chandu Sarwate (234) Holkar v Gujarat, 1950-51
Sanjay Manjrekar (224) Mumbai v Punjab, 1994-95
Wazir Ali (222*) Southern Punjab v Bengal, 1938-39
KC Ibrahim (219) Mumbai v Baroda, 1948-49
BB Nimbalkar (219) Holkar v Bengal, 1952-53
Bapu Nadkarni (219) Mumbai v Rajasthan, 1962-63
Phiroze Palia (216) Uttar Pradesh v Maharashtra, 1939-40
Rahul Dravid (215) Karnataka v Uttar Pradesh, 1997-98
Hanumant Singh (213) Rajasthan v Mumbai, 1966-67
V Mohan Raj (211*) Hyderabad v Delhi, 1986-87
Vineet Saxena (207*) Chennai v Tamil Nadu, 2011-12
Sunil Gavaskar (206*) Mumbai v Delhi, 1983-84
Vijay Hazare (203) Baroda v Services, 1957-58
CK Nayudu (200) Holkar v Baroda, 1945-46