Akash Kumar Choudhary made a sensational return to first-class cricket with his best-ever figures of 7/40 as Meghalaya rolled over Nagaland for just 72 on the opening day of their Ranji Trophy plate group match at the MCA Ground here today.
At stumps Meghalaya were 196/7, leading by 124.
Akash was named in Meghalaya’s original squad but had to give way on medical advice as he was still recovering from injury. After two games on the sidelines, the fast bowler returned to the starting XI today and impressed with a fantastic spell of bowling. In his 60th BCCI senior level domestic match, these are his best figures across all formats – first-class, one day and T20 – and the first time he has taken five wickets or more in an innings.
On a cold morning Meghalaya won the toss and chose to field first. They started with an early dropped catch but they did not let that get their spirits down. Swarajeet Das (1/5 in 5 overs), the bowler who had the catch put down, then clean bowled Vishal Sahani and that set the tone for the first session.
Racing in from the other end, Akash smashed the stumps of Nagaland’s Joshua four balls later before trapping Jonathan lbw in the seventh over.
The wickets kept on tumbling from there. Meghalaya, sometimes a little guilty of dropping catches in the past, started to field well too. Sumit Kumar mistimed a pull shot off a ball that hurried on to him and Raj Biswa pulled off a sharp leaping catch at midwicket to the great delight of his team mates.
The visitors were later reduced to 41/8, with a sub-50 score firmly on the cards. However, a 25-run stand, the only real resistance, delayed matters.
That led to captain Kishan Lyngdoh feeling something different was required and, after 22 overs of pace, he introduced the left-arm orthodox spin of Arbin Singh (1/4), who bagged a wicket with his very first ball. That was the only over he would bowl as Dippu Sangma from the pavilion end then castled No. 10 Nagaho for 19 (the high score for Nagaland) in the very next over.
The players took an early lunch but Nagaland were thinking of ways to get back into the fight and they did that well enough at the start of the second session by removing the first four home team batters for just 61 on the board. Nagaland were about to celebrate their fifth wicket soon after but Swarajeet, who had just begun his innings, had a massive let-off as the bowler was found to have overstepped the crease and the third umpire ruled it a no ball.
It would prove to be a costly mistake as Swarajeet went on to be part of a brilliant 92-run partnership with Kishan.
The skipper, with his second half-century in successive home matches (and following in the wake of his double ton on the road against Arunachal Pradesh in the first game), hit 12 fours in his 57-ball innings that produced 58 runs. He was destined not to see the end of play, however, as he went for a big hit, miscued it and was caught at midoff.
Swarajeet also fell before stumps. He reached 63 from 102 deliveries (10x4s) before getting out and thoroughly capitalised on his earlier reprieve.