HP make strong start in final round
Second placed Himachal Pradesh kept up their push for qualification by coasting to a strong 243 for 2 on the first day against Kerala in Kannur. Opener Abhinav Bali made his second Ranji century of the season and put on 103 for the first wicket with Paul Valthaty, who has struggled since hitting the headlines in the IPL. Valthaty's 56 was his first half-century of the season since moving to HP. After Valthaty's exit, Bali put on another century stand with HP stalwart Paras Dogra, before being dismissed late in the day.
Table-toppers Vidarbha didn't have as good a day against Andhra, though it wasn't a disastrous one either. The crawled to 200 for 5 by stumps in Cuddapah, recovering from a shaky 23 for 3 as the hugely experienced Hemang Badani stabilised the innings with a 73. Shalabh Srivastava briefly kept him company, before being run out for 24. Badani then put on Vidarbha's most productive partnership of the day, worth 116, with Ranjit Paradkar before Badani also became a run-out victim. Syed Sahabuddin was the most efficient of Andhra's bowlers, giving away only 16 runs in his 16 overs.
In the clash of the cellar-dwellers, Tripura were bowled out for 242 by Services in Agartala. Tripura opener Subhrajit Roy's hit-or-miss season continued as he top scored with 85, his third half-century of the season - his other six Ranji innings have been single-digit efforts. There was little support from the rest of the batsmen though, the next highest scorer was No. 10 Tushar Saha, who made 30. Medium-pacer Suraj Yadav did the early damage for Services, taking three top-order wickets.
An unbeaten 94 from teenager B Sandeep kept Hyderabad in the race for qualification as they finished on 234 for 4 against Jammu & Kashmir on the first day at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. J&K began well, removing DB Ravi Teja and T Suman cheaply, before dismissing Arjun Yadav for 21. Sandeep and opener P Reddy then steadied the innings with a 106-run fourth-wicket stand. Reddy fell lbw to Parvez Rasool, but Sandeep and Syed Quadri held on till stumps, adding 60 in nearly 30 overs.
Assam made slow progress against leaders Maharashtra, crawling to 182 for 3 after 91 overs in Guwahati. The openers, Pallavkumar Das and Dheeraj Jadhav, made contrasting half-centuries: Das made a relatively brisk 50 off 97 deliveries, while Jadhav took more than six hours to make 62 against his old team. There was no increase in momentum once the openers were separated, with the batsmen to follow also being cautious. Teenage legspinner Chirag Khurana benefitted from the lack of intent from the batsmen, bowling 22 overs for 25 runs.
Jharkhand, missing the services of Saurabh Tiwary, were bowled out for 218 by Goa in Jamshedpur. Jharkhand, already bottom of the table, got off to a poor start, losing two early wickets. Opener Manish Vardhan held firm and was helped by in-form Ishank Jaggi, who was fresh from a 188 in his previous match. The pair added 93 before Jaggi was bowled by Amit Yadav, still leaving Jharkhand at a fairly solid 123 for 3. Vardhan went on to make 84, and Deepak Chougule chipped in with an unbeaten 45, but none of the other batsmen made much of a contribution as Jharkhand crumbled. Goa lost the wicket of Anup Kolambkar in the only over they had to negotiate before stumps.