Recent Match Report – Delhi vs Tamil Nadu Elite, Group H 2021/22


He came in at 162 for 5 and ensured a first-innings lead despite Delhi having piled on 452

After causing a stir at the IPL mega auction last weekend on the back of his white-ball heroics, Tamil Nadu’s M Shahrukh Khan made another splash this weekend, clattering an 89-ball century in the Ranji Trophy game against Delhi. The 26-year-old nearly converted his maiden first-class hundred into a double-century as Tamil Nadu overhauled Delhi’s 452 in Guwahati.
By the time Shahrukh was trapped lbw by Nitish Rana‘s part-time offspin in the post-tea session on day three, Tamil Nadu were into the lead. Left-arm fingerspinner Vikas Mishra, however, cleaned up the tail swiftly and bowled out Tamil Nadu for 494 at the stroke of stumps, limiting their lead to 42.
That Tamil Nadu would snatch the first-innings advantage appeared unlikely when Shahrukh joined former captain B Indrajith at 162 for 5. The current captain Vijay Shankar had just offered a bat-pad catch to silly-point for five. R Sai Kishore, the nightwatchman, and M Kaushik Gandhi, the opener, had already fallen in the morning as Delhi dominated the early exchanges.

Sai Kishore (11) had been caught short by a direct hit from Lalit Yadav while Gandhi (55) nicked off a quick dart from Mishra. Shahrukh then immediately changed the mood and tempo of the game with a barrage of boundaries.

He had started off in a skittish fashion, flapping a weak pull in front of mid-on, but stayed true to his usual attacking instincts and went about bending the Delhi attack out of shape. Shahrukh was particularly brutal on left-arm seamer Kuldip Yadav, taking him for 50 off a mere 20 balls. All up, he walloped 20 fours and 10 sixes.

That Sharukh is particularly strong against pace is fairly well-established in Indian domestic circles. Recently in the 50-overs Vijay Hazare Trophy, Prasidh Krishna, too, felt the power of Shahrukh. On Saturday, while his big-hitting against pace would have been the more headline-grabbing passage of play, it was his patience and technique against spin that highlighted his growth as an all-format domestic batter.

He was either forward to smother Mishra’s turning balls or right back – when the bowler dragged the length back – to cut him or pull him away. In all, he made 29 off 48 balls against Mishra. Over the last two years, Tamil Nadu’s assistant coach R Prasanna has had a variety of local spinners bowling at Shahrukh at the nets and all that training was put to good use against Delhi.

On his Ranji debut in 2018, Shahrukh had set up Tamil Nadu’s victory with a first-innings 92 not out on an atypical Chepauk track that aided seamers. He has played just four-class matches since, before this Ranji season, but there are already signs that Shahrukh could be a match-winner in red-ball cricket as well.
“Touch wood, things are going well for me in white-ball cricket for Tamil Nadu. I feel that people brand quickly that he is a white-ball player only, but I want to do well and hit the next level in all formats,” Shahrukh had told ESPNcricinfo in the lead-up to this Ranji season.

“I want to get big runs in Ranji Trophy. I might also bat down the order in red-ball cricket and I want to handle those situations better, with Prasanna as the example. He has bailed out Tamil Nadu from so many situations in swinging conditions. The margin for error in red-ball cricket is a lot lesser and I enjoy that challenge.”

Shahrukh walked the talk, striking up rapid century stands with Indrajith and then N Jagadeesan. Shahrukh had brought up the century stand with Indrajith in grand style with a rasping cut over backward point off Kuldip – a genuine candidate for the shot of the day. Indrajith was more aggressive and proactive against spin, often disrupting lengths and lines by jumping out of the crease.

Indrajith reached his hundred off 126 balls when he glided Kuldip to the third-man boundary in the 71st over, which yielded 22 runs. Seven overs later, though, Rana pinned him lbw with an offbreak that shot low. There would be no stopping Shahrukh however, as he zipped into the nineties with a brace of sixes.

After getting to a century of his own, with a single to long leg, he seemingly pointed to his white jersey and soaked in the applause from the Tamil Nadu camp. Shahrukh then needed just 24 balls to go from 100 to 150.

After a slow start, Jagadeesan, too, hit a higher gear, launching Mishra for sixes over long-off and long-on in the 92nd over. At one point, Delhi spread out the field, deploying fielders at deep midwicket, deep backward square leg and long-on, but Shahrukh kept peppering that arc or clearing those outfielders.

Rana and Mishra made some late strikes for Delhi, but this was Shahrukh’s weekend once again.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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