Manish Sharma stars in dismal Punjab batting effort
Five days of Ranji quarter-final excitement kicked off for Punjab and Orissa at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali. The weather, however, refused to be drawn into the party, and gloomy conditions spelled an early end to a low-scoring day for both teams.
Orissa, winning the toss, put their opposition in and then proceeded to take maximum toll of bowling first on a fresh wicket. Opener Manish Sharma could only watch in dismay as partners came and went at the other end. Noted names such as Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia could not contribute with the bat at all, and only Pankaj Dharmani, skipper and wicket-keeper, played his strokes with ease, making 41 off 69 balls.
Sharma, on the other hand, was more dour and defiant. Facing 157 balls for his 99, Sharma hit 16 fours and defended impassively otherwise. He was particularly impressive against the swing and seam of Debashish Mohanty, who picked up four wickets in the innings.
Punjab, then, were bowled out for 207, and it was left to their bowlers to make up for this poor performance. V Sharma took this job upon himself and bowled a sizzling spell of 5.2-1-17-3, removing three top-order batsmen, including danger-man Shiv Sunder Das.
Sanjay Raul and Pravanjan Mullick were at the crease, with Orissa on 49/3, when bad light stopped play at three minutes to four. If the Punjab bowlers continue to use the conditions well, they might just be able to sneak their side in through the back door after a poor batting effort.