Quick end to Baroda - Punjab semi-final in sight
The batting performances from Punjab and Baroda on the second day of their Ranji Trophy semi-final have made it highly unlikely that their tie lasts the entire five days. Indeed, with Baroda ending Thursday on 189/8, the match might even end on Friday.
Resuming on 95/4, Punjab were bowled out for 237, a meagre lead of 15 runs. Zaheer Khan took his innings tally to four, while Ajit Bhoite followed up a good batting performance with two wickets. For Punjab, Dinesh Mongia and Vikram Rathour, the overnight batsmen were the only ones to contribute significantly with the bat.
Putting on 124 runs for the fifth wicket, both batsmen got to their fifty. Mongia scored 62 before being caught behind, while Rathour was run out by Bhoite for 55. The two fell in quick succession, and Baroda, brushing aside some resistance from the tail, bowled their rivals out in 69 overs.
But their second-innings batting left much to be desired. Skipper Jacob Martin showed some spirit in making 41, but the real fightback came from Bhoite and Zaheer Khan. Putting on 61 runs in just 47 balls, the pair took Baroda from a pitiful 118/7 to 179 before Zaheer fell, having made 35 off 30 balls with four fours and two sixes.
Baroda were 189/8 at stumps, with Bhoite (34*) and Valmik Buch (8*) still at the crease. The hosts will be looking to Bhoite, their rescuer on numerous occasions in this match, to build a sizeable enough second-innings total to set Punjab a challenging target. The presence of three selectors - Chandu Borde, Shivlal Yadav and Sanjay Jagdale - should further spur bowlers like Zaheer Khan along to give their best on Friday.