Mumbai and Tamil Nadu register vital wins
Wasim Jaffer: quickfire innings
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Baroda 213 (Mongia 74, Salvi 5-42) and 270 (Parab 121, Salvi 4-61, Kulkarni 4-69) lost to Mumbai 324 (Kambli 114) and 160 for 5 (Jaffer 86*) by five wickets
Mumbai, the defending champions, got off to a winning start in their 2003-04 Ranji campaign. They beat Baroda comfortably, by five wickets, to claim four points at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The day began with Baroda on 219 for 5. The match was evenly poised at that stage. However, Aavishkar Salvi removed Tushar Arothe (7) and Nayan Mongia (0) with the second and third balls of the day. Baroda never recovered, and slumped to 270 all out. Salvi (4 for 61) was the pick of the bowlers.
This left Mumbai with a victory target of 160 from 51 overs. A careless approach from the Mumbai batting line-up, with the exception of Wasim Jaffer (86 not out from 114 balls, with 11 fours), saw five wickets fall. Poor strokeplay resulted in the loss of two quick wickets, but Baroda were never in the hunt after Jaffer got stuck in with some crisp frontand back-foot drives. Mumbai needed just 36.2 overs to reach their target, and picked up five points in the process.
Earlier in the match Salvi (5 for 42) had run through the Baroda batting line-up, dismissing them for 213. Mumbai then responded with 324, thanks mainly to 114 from Vinod Kambli. Baroda began their second innings brightly, with Connor Williams (50) and Satyajit Parab (121) putting on 107 for the first wicket. From then on, though, it was all downhill for Baroda.
Karnataka 208 (Balaji 4-51, Ramkumar 4-42) and 235 (Binny 54, Ramkumar 6-62) lost to Tamil Nadu 184 (Prasad 6-51) and 261 for 6 (Sharath 57) by four wickets
Tamil Nadu staved off a strong Karnataka challenge to win their opening game of the 2003-04 Ranji Trophy season at the Indian Airforce Ground in Bangalore. They successfully chased down a target of 260 on the final day, to win by four wickets.
This low-scoring game held interest from the first day, when Karnataka were bowled out for 208 when L Balaji and R Ramkumar bagged four wickets apiece. Ramkumar's effort included a hat-trick. Karnataka bowled themsleves back into the game on the back of a Venkatesh Prasad six-wicket haul, bowling out Tamil Nadu for 184.
Ramkumar then proved that his first-innings performance was no fluke, taking six more wickets for 35. Karnataka mustered just 235, leaving Tamil Nadu chasing 260 for an outright win. S Sharath (57) was the mainstay of the batting as Tamil Nadu reached their target in 102.3 overs, with four wickets to spare. Sharath has been responsible for many Tamil Nadu victories in the past, and his gritty knock helped them secure their first four points of the new season.
Rajasthan 253 (Khoda 86) and 268 for 5 dec (Jhalani 85) beat Bengal 118 (Sharma 6-18) and 251 (Gavaskar 96) by 152 runs
Rajasthan humbled Bengal by 152 runs to get their season off to a fine start at the KL Saini ground in Jaipur. Bengal's batting failed spectacularly, totting up just 118 and 251. In contrast, Rajasthan made 253 and a brisk 268 for 5 declared and were able to force the pace.
After being destroyed in the first innings, Bengal could not eke out a draw from this match. A fighting 96 from Rohan Gavaskar (132 balls, 11 fours, two sixes) only delayed the inevitable. Sanjeev Sanyal (60) resisted from down the order, but by then Rajasthan were well on top. With little or no support from the rest of the batting, Bengal were all out for 251, giving Rajasthan a well-deserved 152-run win and four points.
Hyderabad 245 (Vinaykumar 76, Patel 5-58) and 185 beat Gujarat 129 (Singh 6-33) and 151 by 150 runs
Venkataphy Raju celebrated his 350th Ranji Trophy wicket as Hyderabad romped to a 150-run win over Gujarat at Ahmedabad. Gujarat were humbled on the final day, being dismissed for 151 by Raju and S Vishnuvardhan. Hyderabad took four points from the encounter.
The balance in this low-scoring match tilted from side to side, beginning on the very first day when Hyderabad were bowled out for 245. Only D Vinaykumar (76) could resist the medium-pace of Lalit Patel. Narendra Pal Singh (6 for 33) then blasted out Gujarat for a paltry 129, giving Hyderabad an invaluable first-innings lead of 116.
The bowlers held sway once more in the second innings, with Hyderabad being rolled over for 185. Gujarat were up againt a daunting target of 302, and managed exactly half that. Vishnuvardhan, the left-arm seamer, and Raju bagged four wickets apiece, bowling Hyderabad to a 150-run win.
Andhra 262 and 377 for 7 drew with Railways 441 (Bangar 116)
Indian Railways and Andhra played out a draw at the Karnail Singh stadium in Delhi. The match never looked likely to yield a result, and Sanjay Bangar's century was the highlight of an otherwise dull game. Bangar will feel his century puts him in the reckoning for an opening slot on India's upcoming tour of Australia.
When MSK Prasad (61) top-scored in Andhra's first innings of 262, a low-scoring game seemed on the cards. Bangar (116) and Siddharth Verma (79) put the game to sleep, taking Railways to an imposing 441. From then on, it was only a matter of playing out time for Andhra. Prasad (58 not out) was once again in the thick of the action, although several others made starts, as Andhra racked up 337 for 7 and the game meandered to a draw. Railways took two points and Andhra none.
Delhi 478 (Gambhir 147) drew with Uttar Pradesh 243 and 141 for 1
Delhi batted Uttar Pradesh out of the game at Green Park in Kanpur. After winning the toss and electing to bat, Delhi batted far too long, and far too slowly, to pile up 478 all out in 171.2 overs. Gautam Gambhir benefited from the defeatist approach and helped himself to 147.
In response, Uttar Pradesh did not attempt anything adventurous but were still all out for 243. They only managed that many thanks to a face-saving 84 from Gyanendra Pandey at No. 6. Forced to follow on, Uttar Pradesh crawled to 141 for 1, ensuring that the match was drawn. Jai Prakash Yadav was unbeaten with a 250-minute 79 when the umpires called the game off on the fourth day. Delhi picked up two points on the basis of their first-innings lead, while Uttar Pradesh walked away empty-handed.
Punjab 541 for 7 dec (Mongia 151, Ricky 125) drew with Kerala 344 and 131 for 2
Punjab's superior batting line-up helped them take two points from their tie against Kerala at Palakkad. First-innings centuries from Ravneet Ricky (125) and Dinesh Mongia (151) gave Punjab the upper hand as they reached 541 for 7. Kerala's batsmen held on bravely to score 344, thanks to a fighting 82 from Sunil Oasis, their captain.
With a first-innings lead of 197, Punjab enforced the follow-on. By this stage, however, time had run out and Kerala played out 49 overs to reach 131 for 2 and the safety of a draw. Dinesh Mongia took the most out of the outing, grabbing 4 for 34 in addition to his big hundred.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.