February 6, 2002

Punjab play themselves into a position of strength

Staff Reporter

Sterling bowling efforts from opening bowler Vineet Sharma and star off-spinner Harbahajan Singh ensured Punjab a comfortable position at end of day two of their five-day Ranji quarterfinal against Orissa at the PCA Stadium, Mohali. When stumps were drawn, the home side led by 134 runs with nine second innings wickets in hand.

Orissa, who resumed at 49 for three, began the day on the right note. Overnight batsmen Sanjay Raul and Pravanjan Mullick added 69 runs before Harbhajan snared Raul for 23. A mini-collapse ensued as Orissa were reduced to 148 for seven before Mullick found a staunch ally in Debashish Mohanty.

The former India fast bowler might have contributed only four runs but importantly he survived for 66 balls. Mullick did the bulk of the scoring in the partnership, which realised 49 runs before Mohanty's dismissal. Orissa were within shouting distance of Punjab's first innings score of 207 at that stage. But three runs later, an unfortunate Mullick had to suffer the mortification of being dismissed for 99, a plight he shared with Punjab first-innings top-scorer Manish Sharma. Last man Ajay Barik was dismissed off the very next ball as Orissa were all out for 200. The visitors' devastation had been entirely wrought by two men - Sharma, who claimed six wickets for 59 runs, and Harbhajan, who claimed four for 39.

The home team's position was further strengthened in their second essay by opener Manish Sharma (73*) and No. 3 Yuvraj Singh (34*) who ensured that Punjab reached a healthy 127 for one at stumps.