Ranji 1st round November 7, 2008

A happy divorce and a timely nudge

Highlights of the first round of the Ranji Trophy's Super League and Plate matches

Rohit Sharma scored a fluent third first-class century © PA Photos

Show 'em what they are missing
Had Ranji Trophy cricket been followed in India, this one would have been an equivalent of Wayne Rooney wanting badly to score against Everton. Only that Yere Goud did score a century against Karnataka, that too in his first match against his team from last season. But only a handful watched Goud score a patient 122 not out to help Railways, the team he had left to join Karnataka for an acrimonious one-season stay, gain three points from a first-innings lead over Karnataka.

It was a good old-fashioned Ranji innings where you realise the opposition has scored enough to rule out an outright win [Karnataka had scored 365 in more than one-and-a-half days], and you turn it into a one-innings match. Goud found a suitable partner in Sanjay Bangar, the Railways captain: for the fifth wicket they added 75 in 28.3 overs. The partnership ended in a mix-up when Bangar wanted a third, but Goud didn't. Goud tried to sacrifice his wicket, but was too late, and that denied Bangar a century. Goud, though, took out his anger on Sunil Joshi, hitting him for three sixes in quick time. Then remembering his tag as a stonewaller, he went back to grafting, and made sure Railways recovered from 185 for 5 to 389 all out.

A happy divorce
Abhinav Mukund and M Vijay came together as an opening partnership mid-way of last season, and their first association yielded 256 runs against Saurashtra. Vijay got 230 not out then, and Mukund 120 - on debut. In the first match of this season, though, they raised the bar and went for a bigger run-feast. For 107.4 overs, an inexperienced Maharashstra attack struggled for a wicket, as the right-left combination went on accumulating runs. They ended the first day at 377 for 0, needing 88 more to break the record for the highest opening partnership in the Ranji Trophy, previously held by Raman Lamba and Ravi Sehgal.

They could get only 86 before Vijay was caught at the wicket off Harshad Khadiwale, but better news awaited both the openers. Mukund went on and score the first triple-century of the season, and Vijay left the match mid-way because an India cap awaited him in Nagpur. Neither will mind the separation.

Enamul Haque jnr, Maharashtra's overseas import, bowled 31 wicketless overs for 171 runs.

A timely nudge
This is an important season for the young hopefuls in Indian cricket, because already two of the senior Test players have retired. Keeping that in mind, Rohit Sharma scored a timely century - in one session, against Rajasthan - to add to his impressive century against the Australians in Hyderabad, earlier this year. As Mumbai looked to capitalise on a 103-run first-innings lead, Rohit made the setting of the target easier with a typically fluent third first-class century. His 128 took 140 deliveries, and 94 of those came in 22 fours and one six. As a result of the innings, Mumbai had enough time to bowl Rajasthan out in the second innings, and gain five points.

In the same match, Dhawal Kulkarni, who came into spotlight through his IPL performances for the Mumbai Indians, made a solid Ranji debut, becoming only the seventh Mumbai player to take a five-for on debut. "Earlier I used to just run and bowl and even the pace was less. But Mumbai Cricket Association sent me to Brisbane for a camp and once I came back I was a changed bowler. My technique was right I developed more strength and my pace was increased," he said, and went on to take four more wickets in the second innings to show his gratitude to the team.

The comeback
Figures of 34-10-101-2 and 5-2-6-0 do not sound sensational at all, but in the scenario of the Delhi-Punjab match they were significant. For these were Ashish Nehra's returns, on his first-class comeback after he missed the entire last season. Moreover, the first-innings figures don't do justice to how Nehra bowled.

In his first spell, he got the ball to consistently move away from the left-hand opening batsmen. However, luck deserted him for the first seven overs, during which he kept beating both Karan Goel and Ravi Inder Singh. In the third over of the day, Nehra made Ravi Inder play and miss at three successive deliveries. He finally got his breakthrough in the seventh over of the innings, when Ravi Inder played all over a straight and fast delivery. He then came back for a testing spell later in the day. It was a pleasing throwback: Nehra, his shirt not tucked in, animated, never far away from throwing frustrated tantrums. More pleasing was his perseverance, and one hopes the same is the case throughout the season.

The no-show
Playing his first first-class match for Punjab in more than three seasons, Yuvraj Singh didn't have a favourable outing. With the anticipation around him, he walked in to bat against Delhi minutes before lunch on the first day. He got a bouncer first up from Pradeep Sangwan, which he easily ducked under. That was followed up by five accurate deliveries, the last of which he played at, and guided to Shikhar Dhawan at first slip. On day that eight catches fell short of the slips, Yuvraj's hard hands made sure that was not an issue when he edged. In the second innings, Yuvraj scored 38 off 44, but by then Punjab had conceded the first-innings lead.

The trivia
Abhinav Kumar, the wicketkeeper playing his fifth first-class match, became the first Hyderabad player, and 11th overall, to be stranded on 99 in a Ranji Trophy match, as his team went from 283 for 7 to 296 all out. But his 99 not out proved crucial in Hyderabad's gaining a first-innings lead over Orissa, and with that three points.

Shane Warne's boys' corner
In the IPL, Rajasthan Royals was full of Cinderellas, who Warne bound together into a match-winning unit. Cricinfo will keep an eye on those relatively unknown players, and see how they do in their first first-class season after a successful IPL season.

Swapnil Asnodkar scored 191 against Kerala, at a whopping strike-rate of 47.04. But Goa managed only one point from the match, as Kerala scored 486 in reply to Goa's 460.

Siddharth Trivedi took 5 for 44 and 2 for 42, including five wickets in the first 34 balls he bowled, to first reduce Saurashtra to 12 for 5, and then push them to an innings defeat. This was some effort by Gujarat, who played in the Plate League last year, to smash the Super League semi-finalists.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo