Ranji Trophy, 2nd round, 2007-08 November 19, 2007

Milestone men, and nervous Powar

Sreekumar Nair became Kerala's first triple-centurion © Cricinfo Ltd

Ian Botham in disguise
Yusuf Pathan went into the match against Bengal with a highest score of 92* and three five-fors to his name. It must be the confidence that comes with having won the World Twenty20 on your international debut, because by the time the match got over he had taken two more five-fors, scored his personal best - 183 runs in 150 balls, and had almost single-handedly taken Baroda to an innings win. When he came in to bat, Baroda were 180 for 5 in reply to Bengal's 370 (thanks largely to his effort after Bengal were 221 for 0 at one stage), and when he left Baroda were 86 runs in the lead. Then he opened the bowling in the second innings and struck in the first over, and then four more times as Bengal were bowled out for 86.

The power of one
At the Roshanara Club Ground in Delhi, Cheteshwar Pujara scored a typical grind-to-save-the-match unbeaten 148 against Delhi. Set 327 runs in a day, Saurashtra were 33 for 2 when Pujara came in to bat in the seventh over. He saw the state worsen to 107 for 8 with more than 40 overs to play. That's when he found able support from Sandeep Jobanputra. The partnership frustrated Delhi for 157 minutes and after Jobanputra got out, Sandip Maniar came in to do more of the same. Bad light helped too, as play was called off with five overs to go and a wicket still standing. So frustrated were Delhi they bowled five different bowlers for the last five overs.

A year ago, Saurashtra would have got nothing for the fight they put up in the second innings. But a change in the points system, which awards one point for drawing a match even though the team has lost on first-innings basis, meant they were also playing for something on the final day. A good suggestion, then, by Sanjay Bangar in the pre-season captains' conference.

For more of Bangar's thoughts, read his blog on Cricinfo on the train journeys he has made while playing domestic cricket over the years.

Bundle of nerves
After eight years of having excelled in Indian first-class cricket, Ramesh Powar was nervous going into a second-round match against Tamil Nadu in Chennai. Dropped from both the Indian ODI and Test sides, Powar, according to team-mates, was upset, kept to himself and often cursed his fate, the Indian Express reported.

None of the nerves were on show, though, once the match started as he picked nine wickets to get Mumbai an outright win against Tamil Nadu. The performance followed his impressive show against Karnataka in the first round.

Although the Indian team seems to have moved on, Pravin Amre, the Mumbai coach, can't get enough of Powar. "Experience can't be bought in a super market," he reminded us. Lest we forgot it since the last time he said it, which can't be more than a fortnight ago, at the most.

Ramesh Powar may have been nervous before Mumbai's match against Tamil Nadu, but his performance - 9 for 123 - did not reveal the same © Cricinfo Ltd

Sreekumar Nair became the first triple-centurion for Kerala and only the second in Ranji Trophy overall since the 2000-01 season. Nair's unbeaten 306 against Services overtook the previous best for Kerala - 262 set by Balan Pandit in 1959.

The Kerala Cricket Association was quick to recognise the effort and gave him a grand cash award of Rs1 lakh. The cash award was more than thrice what Shiv Sunder Das, the last triple-centurion got from his state association - Rs30,000.

And before Nair starts splurging, may we remind him that Das was fined 25% of his match fee in the very next game, because he got the sightscreen to move a few times too many.

The milestone man
Nair is not the only one raking in the moolah: Pankaj Dharmani, the Punjab captain and wicketkeeper, was also awarded for becoming the highest run-getter for Punjab in Ranji Trophy. After he became richer by a lakh during the lunch break on day one against Hyderabad, he showed more of the greed by getting his 8000th run in first-class cricket, when he scored his 42nd run during the second day's play.

And with 258 dismissals to his name, a little help from his bowlers will take him to 300 soon. The PCA better start saving.

Baroda outdoes BCCI
Baroda gave the BCCI a gentle wake-up call last week. While the BCCI is still inviting applications for creating and managing its website, the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) became the third state association in India to have a website of its own. Baroda follows the example of Mumbai and Punjab state associations: Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president is also MCA president, and MP Pandove, the BCCI joint secretary, is also the PCA joint secretary.

We're right behind you, captain
"Laxmi Ratan Shukla, incidentally, opened his account as a skipper. Having got out for two ducks in his previous two knocks, Shukla in his third innings as Bengal captain lasted two balls and scored one." Thus read the Telegraph's match report after Bengal lost to Baroda. They are not missing anything, are the Telegraph?

Pankaj Dharmani is currently Punjab's highest run-getter in Ranji Trophy © Cricinfo Ltd

Even before the match started, the paper had labelled it as a "battle of coaches", keeping the captain aside. Paras Mhambrey, the Baroda coach, had coached Bengal to two finals over the last two year. And the Bengali papers had gone as far as to suggest that Bengal were up against the "Mhambrey factor". Mhambrey had chosen a spin-friendly track and eventually the Baroda spinners did get 15 wickets, they even took the new ball in the second innings.

Quote hanger
"You can't take any team lightly these days. You don't know which bush will throw up what snake."

Turned out Karnataka coach Vijay Bharadwaj's caution was unfounded as Karnataka beat Himachal Pradesh easily by an innings and 126 runs.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo