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Ranji Trophy 2023-24 semifinals: Madhya Pradesh’s pace battery skittles Vidarbha for 170 on Day 1

The Madhya Pradesh pace battery, spearheaded by Avesh Khan’s four wickets, made the most of conducive conditions to orchestrate Vidarbha’s batting demolition on day one of the first Ranji Trophy semifinal in Nagpur on Saturday.

The overcast conditions and a green tinge on the playing strip could not convince Vidarbha skipper Akshay Wadkar, who won the toss and opted to bat, entrusting his willow-wielders to negotiate any early movement and extra bounce.

It seemed to be the right call after Atharva Taide’s (39, 63b, 8×4) initial burst took Vidarbha to 27 runs in five overs. His back-to-back drives – first through point and then down the ground – off Anubhav Agarwal put forth his intent in the second over.

But a nip-backer from Avesh, which breached Dhruv Shorey’s defence in the seventh over, sprung the visitor into action. With Kulwant Khejroliya and Anubhav showing better control after the wicket, Taide and his partner Aman Mokhade dropped anchor.

But the stonewalling ended when Venkatesh Iyer strangled Taide down leg-side. Despite ample assistance from the pitch, it took 27 overs for the short-ball ploy to dawn upon MP. With boundary riders behind and in front of square on the on-side, Avesh forced Mokhade to miscue a pull to fine-leg.

MP’s incursions continued in the second session as a helpless Karun Nair (63, 105b, 9×4) saw his side’s implosion from the non-striker’s end. Yash Rathod’s promise proved brief when Venkatesh castled him on 17 before Yash Dubey plucked a one-handed blinder at gully to end Wadkar’s stay.

Aditya Sarwate joined Nair for the sixth wicket but their 24 runs together were a momentary pause in Vidarbha’s slide. Anubhav cleaned up Sarwate, and Avesh accounted for Akshay Wakhare and Yash Thakur in the space of four deliveries.

Nair lapped up every opportunity to collect boundaries square of the wicket, bringing up his half-century in 79 balls. A delivery from Khejroliya skidded through and rearranged Nair’s stumps but not before he prolonged Vidarbha’s essay into the third session and its run tally to 170.

Himanshu Mantri and Dubey gave no hint of any urgency as they commenced Madhya Pradesh’s pursuit of a first-innings lead. Even though Umesh Yadav removed Dubey caught-behind, Harsh Gawali and Mantri took their side to 47 for one at Stumps, well poised to bat the home team out of the contest.

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