Ranji Trophy 2011-12, 2nd round November 14, 2011

A freak catch, and an inebriated captain

ESPNcricinfo looks at the highlights of the second round of the Ranji Trophy 2011-12

If at first you don't succeed…
You might just complete the most extraordinary catch imaginable. It happened at Baroda's Moti Bagh Stadium, when Irfan Pathan took the edge of Madhya Pradesh's Abbas Ali. It went at a comfortable height to the right of second slip who made a meal of it by closing the hands too soon. The ball ricocheted off his right hand to first slip's arm, then to first slip's thigh, then to the diving second slip's arm, then to his shin, finally his shoe, and lobbed up for Pinal Shah, the wicketkeeper, to take the catch. It was a crazy sequence, and just as well that it happened in the one Ranji Trophy match being telecast live. For there is no way an umpire could have been sure about this without a replay.

Captain, not Captain Morgan
Chandigarh is too planned a city. Sometimes you want to break free of that much order. If you are the Orissa captain, though, and there for a one-week visit for a Ranji Trophy match, you'd be well advised to respect that order. On the eve of his Ranji match against, Halhadar Das reportedly went out for a few drinks only to later find out that he had missed the mandatory team dinner. It was a quick jaunt because PTI quoted the team manager as saying that Das, and two youngsters, came back inebriated at 9.45pm. Das was banned for the rest of the season.

Orissa went on to lose in a dramatic manner. They looked good for a first-innings lead but a 35-run ninth-wicket partnership between Manpreet Gony and Gitansh Khera denied them. Harbhajan Singh declared the moment the lead was secured, and his intent worked. Orissa were bowled out for 73 with Gony continuing the good work with a five-for. In less than a day Punjab went from what looked like one point to full five.

The chase
Tamil Nadu had three points in the bag, the pitch was turning, and nobody would have complained if they had walked away from a chase of 146 in 13 overs. Not with new captain L Balaji, though. He promoted Dinesh Karthik to open the innings, and kept M Vijay back as a fall-back in the middle order. Kartik scored 55 off 32, and Vijay came in at No. 5 and smote 42 off 19. Amit Mishra went for 27 in one over, hit for a six by Karthik and three by Vijay. Even when wickets began to fall, Tamil Nadu kept going after the total. Twenty-three off two overs became six off last three balls, but crucially Vijay was off strike. Yo Mahesh, whose six wickets earlier had made the chase possible, fell lbw to the fourth ball. Vijay was run out trying to steal the strike next ball. The match might not have been won, but respect was.

The match
What would you do if you were the last pair of the match and needed 50 to win or alternatively bat out 20.5 overs for a draw. Some might even say that if you batted that many overs, you would end up winning. In these circumstances, with all four results possible in Kochi, U Manukrishnan and P Parameswaran chose to block the visiting Services attack. They did so successfully, adding just 27 before the stumps were drawn. Manukrishnan spent 96 minutes at the wicket for his 12 runs, and in two minutes fewer Parameswaran managed a couple of runs fewer. The latter even hit a four.

Namma Karnataka
After India finished off the Kotla Test within four days, Rahul Dravid used what would have been the fifth day to go and watch Karnataka play at Railways' home ground, the Karnail Singh Stadium, in New Delhi. He walked in at around 10.30am on day one, had a chat with the Karnataka players during lunch, and stood up and applauded when Robin Uthappa reached his century. Dravid's team didn't disappoint him as they wrapped up an innings win inside three days.

When in Rome…
… Do as the Romans do. When at Karnail Singh, bowl slow left arm. That's what Karnataka's S Aravind, a left-arm medium-pacer, did when he found out that the pitch would assist turn. Not that it is news. While left-arm spinner KP Appanna took two five-fors in the rout of Railways, to go with Murali Kartik's 5 for 88, Aravind too took a wicket bowling spin. Aravind said that once during the nets when he was tired he started bowling spin just for fun, and found out he was equally good at it. Since then he says he hasn't been shy of doing so in matches too.

The slide that needs to be stopped
Hyderabad need to do something. Last season they entered the record books by getting bowled out for 21. This time they lost by an innings even though they had dismissed the opposition, Maharashtra, for 184. Eat your heart out, Australia. Having fallen behind by 60 runs, Hyderabad managed just 54 in their second innings. Maharashtra's Akshya Darekar made a name for himself with 8 for 20 in the second-innings and 13 for 68 in the match.

The results
After a disappointing first round, the second round produced seven results in 13 matches. The draws in Chennai and Kochi were exciting too.

The quote
"Now when I will remember my hundred, I will also remember how badly we lost to Gujarat."
Mithun Manhas had just completed a century in his 100th first-class match, but it had come in an innings defeat against Gujarat. Shades of Michael Clarke there, who termed his Newlands century worthless.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo