After 5-wicket haul, all eyes on Darekar with the bat

The ball pitched on good length, the seam perpendicular to the pitch and held its line almost till it kissed the batsman's bat. Murali Vijay, who plonked his front foot out, expected a firm 'thwack' as the ball met his bat. However, the ball spun away viciously, kissed the edge of Vijay's bat and landed in Chirag Khurana's hands in the first slip.

Akshay Darekar yelped in delight as Khurana threw the ball gleefully in the air. Maharashtra's leading wicket-taker in the 2011-12 season with 35 scalps, who endured a torrid opening game against Uttar Pradesh, was back in familiar territory. Darekar bowled 37 wicketless overs against UP, but against Tamil Nadu his 15 overs in the second innings yielded four wickets for just 61 runs. He had also picked up a couple of wickets in the first innings.

"I had fun bowling today. The wicket is great for spin-bowlers. It's a bit too good actually. You need to ensure that you don't get carried away with the kind of turn that you get on this wicket," said Darekar. The third day of the match saw 18 wickets falling with 13 wickets being bagged by spinners. Maharashtra's Chirag Khurana also scalped four wickets, managing to deceive the Tamil Nadu batsmen with changes in pace and trajectory.

Darekar said it was important for the spinners to hit the right areas on the pitch. "If a bowler manages to pitch the ball in the rough, he is sure to succeed. I didn't bowl fast or try too many variations. I just concentrated on hitting the footmarks and getting the ball to kick in to the batsmen," he said. Darekar also said his frugal use of the arm-ball had allowed him to keep the batsmen guessing.

Darekar's four-wicket haul came as a relief to his captain Rohit Motwani. "It's great that Akshay got rewarded for his hardwork. He is one of our strike bowlers and when he is on song, the team profits," said Motwani. A different job awaits Darekar on day four, as he will resume Maharashtra innings with Ankit Bawne, chasing 118 to win with just two wickets in hand.

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