Kerala and Bengal lock horns in the ongoing Ranji Trophy 2024 at the St Xavier’s College Ground in Thiruvananthapuram. After Sanju Samson decided to bat against Bengal, Kerala were down to 112-4 before Sachin Baby (124) and Akshay Chandran (106) stitched to a 179-run partnership for the fifth wicket. On the second day, Bengal’s Shahbaz Ahmed grabbed 4-73 and Ankit Mishra 3-84, eventually bowling Kerala out for 363.

Kerala’s right-arm medium bowler MD Nidheesh picked a wicket for Kerala, dismissing Bengal opener Ranjot Singh Khaira. However, Bengal managed to reach 107 thanks to Abhimanyu Easwaran’s 72 before Jalaj Saxena triggered the batters. Saxena had Bengal down to 172-8 at stumps on the second day, and by the third morning, he had bowled them out for 180. The 37-year-old veteran picked up the last nine wickets to record his career-best bowling figures of 9-68 in first-class cricket.

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Saxena‘s previous best came against Services in the last domestic season where he finished with figures of 8-36. Additionally, the Indore-born spinner’s nine-wicket haul is the first by anyone versus Bengal. Previously, the record belonged to Bombay bowler Manohar Hardikar, who took 8-39 in Calcutta in the 1955–1956 season. The only other nine-wicket total by a bowler from Kerala’s squad, Amarjith Singh’s 9-45 against Andhra in 1971–72, remains the best spell by a bowler from the team. 

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Saxena, a formidable player on the Indian domestic circuit, has so far accumulated over 6,500 runs and is quickly approaching the 450-wicket mark in the Ranji Trophy. In addition, Saxena became the second bowler in the Ranji Trophy this decade to take nine wickets in an innings. In the previous season, rookie Jotin Pheiroijam Singh registered figures of 9-69. Undoubtedly, Ajaz Patel’s 10-119 is the top first-class spell in Indian cricket since 2020 which he achieved against New Zealand at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. 

Speaking about the match, Kerala then declared at 265, setting a target of 449 runs. Bengal reached 77/2 on Day 3 stumps and they now need 372 runs in 75.2 overs.

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