Railways sneak into semis, heartbreak for Gujarat
The final day of the league phase of the Ranji Trophy was a climactic one as Railways pipped Gujarat and Delhi to reach the semi-finals. At the other end of the table, Bengal kept their nerve and avoided relegation in a tense scrap. Mumbai, Hyderabad, Punjab and Railways made it to the last-four stage but there were large doses of drama right through.
Railways 299 and 137 for 3 (Yadav 53*) beat Karnataka 194 and 241 by 7 wickets
Railways sneaked through to the semi-finals, past Delhi and Gujarat, after their convincing seven-wicket victory against Karnataka in Bangalore. After a forgettable start to the season, where they struggled to record a single win in five games, Railways' two consecutive wins in the final lap proved enough to take them through. Jai Prakash Yadav starred with both bat and ball today: first picking up 3 for 24 to limit Karnataka's lead to 136, and then blitzing 52 off 49 to seal the emphatic win. Resuming at 181 for 6, the Karnataka tailenders resisted for 25.2 overs with Dodda Ganesh holding things together with his dogged 29. But a target of 137 in close to two sessions was always going to be a canter for Railways and after a solid start they soon galloped to the semis.
Gujarat 420 and 189 (Christian 98) drew with Andhra 314 and 222 for 7 (Varma 59)
Three wickets separated Gujarat from the semi-finals as the Andhra lower order thwarted their bid for a win at Visakhapatnam. Considering Railways' strong position in Bangalore at the end of the third day, Gujarat's only chance lay in extending their lead in quick time and then wrapping up the Andhra innings. Akash Christian anchored the quest for quick runs with an excellent 98 off 115, including 11 fours, but the rest fell in their attempt to accelerate. Andhra were faced with a target of 296 in close to 70 overs and at were well placed at 130 for 3 in he 38th over. But a mini-collapse ensued and Gujarat scented a famous win as they reduced Andhra to 145 for 7. That's when Krishna Singh and Mohammad Faiq joined hands to engineer the Gujarat heartbreak and their 77-run stand ensured that the game finished in a draw. Andhra had no chance of entering the semis and they had just done Railways a huge favour.
Baroda 186 and 283 beat Uttar Pradesh 124 and 203 (Raina 53) by 142 runs
Baroda completed a resounding 142-run triumph over Uttar Pradesh at the Moti Bagh Stadium but that wasn't good enough to get through to the semis. Baroda's final tally of 16 points equaled Punjab but they were far behind in the runs-per-wicket quotient and needed a bonus point in this game to seal a last-four berth. After making only 186 in the first innings, their hopes of entering the knockout phase had all but vanished. Chasing 346, UP resumed this morning on 114 for 3 and lost wickets at regular intervals. Zaheer Khan finished with 5 for 94 and Suresh Raina's composed 53 only delayed the inevitable before UP folded for 203.
Delhi 394 and 37 for 1 drew with Mumbai 600 for 9 dec (Muzumdar 112, Thakkar 82, Mota 55*)
Delhi's hopes of a semi-final slot had all but disappeared at the end of the third day and they were ground to the dust on the final day at the Wankhede Stadium. Mumbai took the first-innings lead in the first session and continued to bat until they reached 600 and killed the game as a contest. Amol Muzumdar made a fine hundred, his 18th in first-class cricket, while Bhavin Thakkar and Wilkin Mota chipped with half-centuries. Ajay Jadeja, the Delhi capain, ended up bowling 27 overs in the innings and even finished as the most successful bowler with 4 for 59. Delhi replied with 37 for 1 in their second innings as the curtains came down on the game as well as their Ranji campaign.
Madhya Pradesh 392 and 111 for 2 (Ojha 51, Bundela 50*) drew with Bengal 397 (Shukla 81, Gandhi 77)
Laxmi Ratan Shukla helped Bengal avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth and his fighting 88 was instrumental in taking a slender first-innings lead at Kolkata. Bengal began the nerve-wracking final day still 98 behind with only four wickets in hand and their hopes were dimmed when Debang Gandhi (77) was out early. But Shukla strung together a crucial 44-run partnership with Utpal Chatterjee, who was called back from retirement for this game, and Bengal were back in the hunt. Ranadeb Bose, the No. 10, then hung around for 61 balls as Shukla inched them towards the target. Shukla was the last to fall but by then the celebrations had already begun. MP replied with 111 for 2, with Naman Ojha and Devendra Bundela helping themselves to half-centuries, but MP's fate had been sealed in the afternoon when they were packed off to the Plate Group, where they will play next season.
Tamil Nadu 277 and 259 for 8 dec beat Maharashtra 175 and 170 by 191 runs
Tamil Nadu wrapped up a comprehensive win over Maharashtra at Chennai but the game had been reduced to a dead-rubber by the second day when they had no chance of getting a bonus point to make a bid for the knockout stage. Chasing a final-innings target of 362, Maharashtra were 109 for 1 at one stage and had a good chance of escaping with a draw. But Ramakrishnan Ramkumar, the left-arm spinner, got to work with 4 for 55 and the Maharashtra lower order came apart in close to no time.
This game finished earlier
Hyderabad 340 beat Assam 158 and 126 (Sathish 56) by an innings and 56 runs
Hyderabad clinched a semi-final berth with a comprehensive innings-and-56-run victory against Assam at the Gymkhana Ground in Secunderabad. Following on after trailing by 182 in the first innings, Assam fared even worse the second time around, being bundled out for 126. Apart from Rajagopal Sathish, who made 56, none of the other Assam batsmen offered much resistance. The wickets were shared around, with Sankinani Vishnuvardhan, Inder Shekar Reddy and Kaushik Reddy taking three each. The win puts Hyderabad on top of Group B, and ensures that they won't meet Mumbai in the semi-finals.