Ranji Trophy 2003-04 November 16, 2003

Spurned Balaji blitzes Rajasthan

Tamil Nadu 213 (Badrinath 43) beat Rajasthan 97 (Ramkumar 4-41) and 107 (Balaji 7-42) by an innings and 9 runs
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L Balaji couldn't have chosen a better day to demolish Rajasthan and hand Tamil Nadu an innings victory within two days - their second successive win this season. On the day Balaji was omitted from the Indian squad for the tour of Australia he sent down 18.5 overs - nine of them maidens - and snared seven victims to sent Rajasthan hurtling towards disaster. Earlier in the day Balaji had batted bravely for his 25, and put on a valuable 41 runs for the ninth wicket with MR Shrinivas (23). Only VA Saxena, the Rajasthan opener, batted with any purpose for his 43 - the rest just caved in to some accurate bowling from a man who performed as if there were no tomorrow.

The first day had followed a similar pattern for Rajasthan, as on a pitch with a smear of green they were shot out for 97. Ramkumar, the left-arm spinner, took four wickets with able assistance from Balaji. The TN batting also struggled, but S Badrinath (43) and S Sharath (44) battled towards respectability, and Balaji and Shrinivas built successfully on their efforts.

Mumbai 183 for 8 (Mane 52, Sarandeep 4-79) trail Delhi 199 (Gambhir 96, Bahutule 5-45) by 16 runs
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After bundling out Delhi for a modest 199 and kick-starting their innings with a 49-run opening stand, Mumbai seemed to be on their way to their second victory of the campaign. But Sarandeep Singh and Rahul Sanghvi made good use of a vicious dustbowl, and picked up seven wickets between them in a couple of marathon spells. The spin duo bowled 63 overs in the day, and benefited from some indiscreet shot-selection by the Mumbai batsmen, for whom Vinayak Mane's 52 and Bhavin Thakkar's 33 were isolated bright spots on an otherwise gloomy batting canvas. Ashish Nehra picked up only one wicket, but it has been the spinners' match so far, on a surface that is more of a minefield than a pitch.

Kerala 195 for 7 (H Kumar 87*, Harvinder Singh 5-42) trail Railways 295 (Khandolkar 72) by 100 runs
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Shreyas Khandolkar's 72 may be invaluable in the context of this match after he helped Railways to a postion of strength on the second day. Harvinder Singh, the former Indian seamer, derailed the Kerala innings later in the day and only Hemanth Kumar's defiant 87 not out and Sreekumar Nair's 69 saved them from an abject collapse. Kumar's innings included 11 fours, but more importantly he spent close to four and a half hours at the crease. Kumar will look for some tailend support tomorrow, but Railways have the inside track on a bowler-friendly surface .

Punjab 1 for 1 trail Uttar Pradesh 471 (Prakash 186, Shamshad 65, Pandey 65*, G Singh 4-97) by 470 runs
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A rock-solid batting performance from UP put them in a commanding position on the second day of their match against Punjab at Meerut. R Prakash added 52 more runs to his overnight score, and there were plucky half centuries by Rizwan Shamshad and Gyanendra Pandey. The medium-pacer Gagandeep Singh picked up four wickets, as did Rajesh Sharma who sent down 51 overs. Pandey added 114 runs with the last five batsmen, and spanked 12 fours in his gutsy knock. Punjab lost the wicket of Samrat Sharma to the fourth ball of their reply, something they could ill-afford after conceding such a mammoth total.

Bengal 7 for 0 trail Karnataka 411(Rowland 151, Naidu 71, Arunkumar 63, Paul 6-90) by 404 runs
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Barrington Rowland hit a great hundred and Thilak Naidu compiled a patient 71 as Karnataka took control on the second day at Mandya. After the opening stand of 146 was broken and two quick wickets followed Bengal might have smelt a collapse - but Naidu and Rowland would have none of that, and put on 125 runs in a partnership that exhibited more patience than flamboyance. Earlier J.Arunkumar had hit a fine 63 and towards the end Sunil Joshi hit a breezy 33 to nudge Karnataka past 400, a target that may be too much for Bengal to overhaul. Shib Paul toiled manfully for his six wickets, and was the only bowler to make any sort of impression.

Gujarat 213 for 6 (Christian 73) lead Assam 180 (Saravanan 58, Majumdar 5-47) by 33 runs
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Akash Christian spent five hours at the crease for a religiously patient 73, and ensured that Gujarat took a first-innings lead on the second day of the match against Assam. Christian and Mukund Parmar (43*) displayed the qualities that the Assam batsmen had lacked yesterday - mainly patience, and then more patience - and with Parmar still undefeated at stumps, Gujarat could be on their way to their first outright victory of the season. Sukhvinder Singh and Gautam Dutta picked up two wickets apiece for Assam.

Andhra 230 (Venugopala Rao 76, Patel 5-54) lead Baroda 216 by 14 runs
Andhra took a slender first innings lead with the help of a fine half century by Venugopala Rao on the second day. Rakesh Patel was Baroda's chief wicket taker with five wickets and Irfan Pathan Jr - buoyed by his inclusion in the Indian team - grabbed three.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo in India.

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