November 2, 2001

Himachal struggling to avoid follow-on

Staff Reporter

A fine bowling spell by Vineet Sharma (3-55) pushed Himachal Pradesh onto the back-foot, as they ended Day Two still requiring 244 runs, with five wickets in hand, to avoid a follow-on in their North Zone Ranji Trophy match against Punjab at the PCA stadium.

Punjab resumed their innings at 330/4, but southpaw Dinesh Mongia (178) departed on the last ball of the first over of the day. Mongia played a casual drive to Sandeep Sharma and scooped an easy catch for Paras Dogra to hold at covers. Sandeep Sawal (5) also departed early, with the addition of just nine runs to the total, Ashok Thakur getting him out caught behind.

Debutant Amit Uniyal joined Pankaj Dharmani and showed his confidence from the first ball that he faced. Dharmani himself was looking for a good partner, as he was stroking the ball very well. The duo toyed with the Himachal attack, adding 155 runs before lunch.

Dharmani completed his 12th century, off 146 balls, in fine style after lunch, punching the ball off the back foot to the long-on fence for his 17th four. Uniyal too completed his half-century in style as he pulled a short ball from Sangram Singh to the mid-wicket fence. A few overs later, however, Uniyal was walking back to the pavilion, caught and bowled by Sangram Singh for 57.

The 170-run seventh wicket partnership adding bulk to Punjab's score, they declared one hour before tea with the score on 540/9, Dharmani remaining unbeaten on 119. Chasing a huge total, Himachal openers Nischal Gaur and Raja Ali started off fluently as they scored 43 runs in just eight overs. Gaur departed soon, caught at gully off the bowling of Vineet Sharma.

Himachal's most experienced batsman Rajiv Nayyar failed to take up the challenge posed to his team, mis-hooking a quick delivery from Vineet Sharma. Raja Ali fell to the same bowler, leaving his side reeling at 67/3. Skipper Varinder Sharma departed as well, after scoring 23.

Some consolidation occurred between Sangram Singh (27*) and Dogra (29), who added 54 runs for the fifth wicket. Dogra was dismissed one minute before the close of play, trapped in front of the wicket by left-arm spinner Babloo Kumar. Himachal ended the day at 147/5.