Ranji Trophy round-up November 17, 2003

Gambhir century sets up exciting finish

Delhi 199 and 223 for 9 (Gambhir 105, Kulkarni 4-76) lead Mumbai 239 (Thakkar 71, Sarandeep 5-107) by 183 runs
Gautam Gambhir might have just missed a hundred in the first innings, but he stamped his class on Mumbai at the Jamia Milia ground today. On a raging turner he countered the Mumbai spinners effectively, and set up an intriguing finish on the final day. Just as in the first innings, Gambhir was the vital pivot, and his 153-ball effort contained only seven fours. This innings was not as flashy and sparkling as his first-day 96, but will be as crucial in deciding the final outcome. On a pitch where the spin bowlers have snapped up 25 of the 29 wickets to fall so far, Nilesh Kulkarni and Sairaj Bahutule teased all the batsmen and were rewarded with 7 wickets between them. The match will hinge on the bowling of Sarandeep Singh and Rahul Sanghvi tomorrow, but can Mumbai unearth a Gambhir from within their ranks?

Railways 295 and 181 for 3 (Bangar 69*, TP Singh 50) lead Kerala 321 (H Kumar 131, S Kumar 56*, Yadav 5-101) by 155 runs
Kerala have the two Kumars to thank for gaining a crucial first-innings lead by the end of the third day at Palakkad. Hemanth Kumar completed a gritty hundred, while Suresh hit a swift 56 to take Kerala to a respectable total after they were hobbling at 195 for 7 overnight. Finally Jai Prakash Yadav got Hemanth Kumar to edge one to the keeper, then quickly polished off the tail to finish with a five-wicket haul. Railways,­ knowing that only an outright win will suffice , finished the day on a high with a solid batting performance,­ the highlights of which was Sanjay Bangar's dour riposte to the selectors and TP Singh's whiff of flamboyance. Railways will be aiming to declare around lunchtime tomorrow, then bowl out Kerala within two sessions and gather the maximum points from the match.

Punjab 312 for 3 (Ricky 102, Mongia 185*) trail Uttar Pradesh 471 (Prakash 186, G Singh 4-97) by 159 runs
With low-scoring matches and underprepared pitches seemingly being the order of the day elsewhere, the Punjab batsmen had a sumptious run-feast at Meerut. Ravneet Ricky and Dinesh Mongia continued their rich vein of form, both notching centuries as the teams jostled for the first-innings lead. At 1 for 2 Punjab were close to sinking, but Mongia, their captain, put on 284 runs with Ricky to take them to a position of strength. Mongia smeared 23 fours and three sixes in a glorious innings, while Ricky played the more sedate role, including ten hits to the fence. Despite their heroics, however, Punjab are still 159 runs adrift.

Bengal 228 (Shukla 86, Ganesh 4-54) and 17 for 1 trail Karnataka 411 (Rowland 151, Paul 6-90) by 166 runs
The Bengal batting has all sorts of problems ... and then some. Last week they were bundled out by Rajasthan. Today they followed on against Karnataka, with only Laxmi Ratan Shukla providing a semblance of hope - he blasted a fiery 86, with eight fours and three sixes. Two former Indian bowlers were among the wickets: Dodda Ganesh, the seamer, picked up four, and Sunil Joshi snapped up three on a day when none of the batsmen were at ease. Bengal lost Deep Dasgupta early in the follow-on, and Karnataka could well be on the way to their first victory of the season.

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