Harvinder pushes Punjab onto the backfoot
A fine bowling spell by former India bowler Harvinder Singh (4 for 64) enabled Railways to push Punjab on to the backfoot in their Ranji Trophy semi-final match at PCA stadium, Mohali on Thursday. Ankur Kakkar's laboured knock of 53 assisted Punjab to 247/8 at close on the opening day.
Railways skipper Abhay Sharma had no hesitation in asking Punjab to take first strike after winning the toss. Munish Sharma who opened with Ravneet Ricky lasted just three deliveries. Trying to fend a short rising delivery, he was caught at third slip by Yere Goud off Harvinder Singh. Skipper Vikram Rathour joined Ricky but both found the going tough as the bounce was inconsistent. The early morning moisture in the wicket also helped the Railways pacemen. Both batsmen opened their account with streaky shots to the vacant third man area.
The partnership between Ricky and Rathour mounted to 76 and just as the picture was looking rosier for the Punjab team, Harvinder struck once again as Ricky played an uppish drive straight into the bowler's hands. Ricky's knock of 33 runs came from 86 balls with the help of five boundaries. Rathour also departed soon after, driving an outgoing delivery from Sanjay Bangar, the resulting snick being collected by keeper Abhay Sharma at his individual score of 44.
Punjab's main hopes rested on Pankaj Dharmani who has scored a plethora of runs this season. He started with a well timed cover drive and proceeded to take boundaries each off Kulamani Parida, Harvinder Singh and Sanjay Bangar. A sudden rush of blood terminated Dharmani's innings as he tried to heave off spinner Parida over midwicket only to find his middle stump uprooted. The Punjab team at this stage was tottering at 114 for 4.
At the other end Ankur Kakkar found the going tough, being rattled by short deliveries from Harvinder. Reetinder Sodhi (15) who came in next did not last long. He was bowled by Parida, the ball rolling on to the stumps off the inside edge. Debutant Sanjay Mahajan stepped out under tremendous pressure. He opened his account after 10 balls but could not last long, being captured behind the stumps off Harvinder.
Leg spinner Sandeep Sanwal arrived at the middle and his confidence also boosted the spirit of Kakkar at other end. The duo added 61 vital runs for the seventh wicket of which Sanwal contributed 28 runs with the help of four sweetly timed boundaries. He was sent back to the pavilion by left arm spinner Tejinder Pal Singh who was reintroduced for a second spell after 54 overs. Sanwal was clean bowled while trying to clear mid off and missing the line.
Gagandeep Singh replaced Sanwal and was shaping well but his senior partner Kakkar was lulled into a mistake after an obdurate 53. Stepping across the wicket to drive a overpitched delivery by Harvinder, he was trapped in front in the penultimate over of the day. At draw of stumps of Gagandeep was batting on 16 with the help of three boundaries while Vineent Kumar is yet to open his account. Apart from Harvinder, off spinner Kulamani Parida was also amongst the wickets, scalping 2/49.