Haryana, Hyderabad and Tripura win close games
Hyderabad launched their Vijay Hazare campaign with victory after prevailing over Andhra by two wickets in a tense low-scoring fixture at the MRF Pachyappas Ground in Chennai. Hyderabad's decision to field reaped immediate dividends when the opening bowlers reduced Andhra to a dismal 14 for 3. Despite steadying hands from the middle order, the innings seemed to have run out of gas at 104 for 6 in the 38th over. Duvvarapu Shivkumar changed the complexion of the innings with a belligerent 67 off 41 balls to take his side past 200. Syed Sahabuddin struck early to have Hyderabad stuttering at 8 for 2, before Ravi Teja and Anirudh Singh calmed the nerves with half centuries. That was when Shivkumar got into the act for the second time in the day. In partnership with Donnapaneni Kalyankrishna, he wrecked the middle order as 128 for 2 became 175 for 8. However, Amol Shinde and Alfred Absolem ensured that their side crossed the line in the penultimate over.
Tamil Nadu overwhelmed Kerala by eight wickets with 84 balls remaining at the Central Polytechnic India Pistons Ground in Chennai. Asked to bat by the hosts, Kerala got off to a sluggish start before C Ganapathy struck to dismiss both openers. The middle order was unsuccessful in lifting the run-rate despite getting starts, which played into the hands of seamers L Balaji and Yo Mahesh. R Ashwin ensured that the innings never got into gear, and Kerala was eventually bowled out for 189. The visitors needed an inspired performance from their top bowler, Sreesanth, but the India seamer failed to impress. Arun Karthik and Abhinav Mukund grabbed the opportunity, scoring a ton and a fifty respectively to ensure that their side got a bonus point. Arun was at his punishing best, smashing eight fours and four sixes in his unbeaten 98-ball 106.
Karnataka barn-stormed Goa in a high-scoring affair at the IIT- Chemplast Ground in Chennai, chasing down 287 with consummate ease. Goa's innings was propped up by aggressive fifties from S Sriram and Saurabh Bandekar, with Ajay Ratra and Shadab Jakati also contributing substantially. In the middle of the mayhem, left-armer KP Appanna managed to pick a five-for. Karnataka's chase was put on course by Robin Uthappa and Ganesh Satish who added 51 in 43 balls. Uthappa fell after reaching a quick fifty, but there was no let-up in the momentum as Manish Pandey smote the Goa attack to all corners of the ground in a murderous 95 off 69 balls. He missed his hundred closely, falling after raising 173 runs in 137 balls with Satish, who duly completed his hundred. Khesmal Waivankar picked 2 for 48, but it was not enough to deny Karnataka the bonus point and earn Goa the ignominy of a negative point.
A spate of run outs towards the closing stages and some nerveless death bowling from Haryana handed Punjab defeat by the narrowest of margins at the Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Rohtak. The tone for a low-scoring scrap was set early in the piece by Love Ablish who struck two crippling blows, even as runs proved hard to come by. Seamer Jaskaran Singh and legspinner Rahul Sharma complemented his efforts and struck regularly to blight Haryana's progress, and had it not been for a patient 76 from opener Rahul Dewan, they would have struggled to reach three-figures. Punjab's reply got off to a similar start, with Sanjay Budhwar striking twice in his first spell. Ravi Inder Singh and Mandeep Singh combined to produce the only 50-plus stand of the day, and at 84 for 2 in the 25th over, Haryana had few backers. That's when offspinner Ajit Chandila got into the act with a decisive double strike that set the cat among the pigeons. Vishwas Bhalla and Bipul Sharma seemed to have put the chase back on track before all hell broke loose. Chandila struck again, sending Bipul back before Jaskaran and Rahul were run out in quick succession. Bhalla found a calm partner in Gony and the pair added 20 runs to take their side two runs away from victory, but that's as close as they got.
A strong allround performance from Rajat Bhatia was the cornerstone of Delhi's easy win over Jammu and Kashmir at the Cricket Academy in Sirsa. Imraj Thakur, R Bisati and Pervez Rassol made light of the early loss of a wicket to launch the J&K innings well, before Bhatia and Puneet Mehra intervened. Wickets fell at regular intervals, Bhatia accounting for three of them, to ensure that J&K did not reach 250, as three batsmen fell in the forties. No such problems for Shikhar Dhawan who gave the chase a rapid start, despite failures from Unmukt Chand and Virat Kohli. After Dhawan's dismissal, Mithun Manhas and Bhatia joined in the fun to ensure an easy win for their side. Manhas fell for 70, but Bhatia saw it through with an unbeaten 59.
Himachal Pradesh cantered to a six-wicket win against Services in their opening match at the Tata Energy Research Institute Oval in Gurgaon. Services' innings came unstuck after a steady start, when Jitender Mehta struck in the sixth over. Sumit Singh and Tahir Khan struck 30s, but could not accelerate as wickets fell at regular intervals. Sarandeep Singh kept things tight in the middle overs, before Yashpal Singh and Mumtaz Qadir injected the much-needed momentum in the only passage of play that Services dominated. Both made fifties to take the score to 213 in the allotted 47 overs. Himachal's openers put their side on course for a win with a 98-run stand. Hemant Dogra reached a fifty, while Sangram Singh missed by six runs. Paras Dogra and VA Indulkar gave the finishing touches to the chase that went past the target in the 43rd over.
It proved to be a close-fought encounter at the Ravenshaw College Ground in Cuttack, as Tripura narrowly beat Bengal by two wickets in a low-scorer. Put in to bat, Bengal never really consolidated as both the seamers and spinners reaped dividends regularly. Opener Shreevats Goswami's 67-ball 36 proved to be the highest in a limp total of 162. Tripura openers Wilkin Mota and Kaushik Aphale looked to have given them the perfect start during the reply, with a stand of 65. But Bengal's seamers hit back well, led by Sayan Mondal's 3 for 25 and two wickets apiece from Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Ashok Dinda. Tushar Saha, coming in at No. 9, hit a steady unbeaten 30-ball 19 to take nervous Tripura home with 10 balls to spare.
Right-arm seamer Rahul Shukla was the main architect of Jharkhand's convincing win over Assam at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. His five-for ensured Assam were bowled out for a paltry 117, a target that Jharkhand overhauled in the 24th over for the loss of two wickets. Shukla never let Assam settle down after they were invited to bat, taking out four of the top six batsmen. Varun Aaron gave him good support with 3 for 39. Abu Nechim hit a valiant 32 lower down but it was never going to be enough for the Ranji quarter-finalists.
Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai made an impressive start to their campaign with a 108-run thumping of Baroda at the Sardar Patel Stadium C Ground. Leading the way was Sushant Marathe, with a classy 108, comprising 11 fours. He figured in two big partnerships, with fellow opener Ajinkya Rahane (66) and captain Wasim Jaffer (78). Abhishek Nayar blasted 49 off 22 balls to lift Mumbai to 328. With Dhawal Kulkarni removing openers Kedar Devdhar and Pinal Shah early in the reply, the going would always be uphill for Baroda. Though Rakesh Solanki shone with a 127-ball 94, including 10 boundaries, Mumbai held the upper hand to bowl Baroda out with seven balls to go.
Captain Harshad Khadiwale led from the front with a quickfire fifty as Maharashtra eked out an eight-run win against Gujarat at the Sardar Patel Stadium B Ground. Put in, Khadiwale and fellow opener Rohit Motwani (48) made a strong start, putting on 106 by the 18th over. Khadiwale was in fine touch, hitting seven fours and a six during his 57-ball 66. Key contributions down the order finally saw them end on 286 for 7. The match was evenly poised throughout the chase, thanks to Gujarat's solid beginning and Bhavik Thaker's fluent 56 at No. 5. But the task of getting 14 off the last seven deliveries proved too difficult for the eighth-wicket pair of Jayesh Makla and Siddharth Trivedi.
A stupendous spell of legspin from Piyush Chawla handed Uttar Pradesh a 28-run win against Railways at the Maharani Usharaje Trust Cricket Ground in Indore. Asked to bat first, UP never got going despite a host of starts for the top-order batsmen. Tanmay Srivastava top-scored with 52, and Ashish Yadav scored 46, but four other batsmen were guilty of not pushing on after entering the 20s. Defending a score of 239, the strong UP attack got into the act through Praveen Kumar who prised out Faiz Fazal and V Cheluvaraj for ducks. TP Singh and Sanjay Bangar got the chase on track before Chawla began to wreak havoc. He got Singh to give him a return catch, and then castled Bangar to bring his side back into the match. Marripuri Suresh did not last long, nicking Chawla behind to set the cat among the pigeons. Yere Goud and Dhiran Salvi looked to repair the innings, but Chawla had plans for both of them, as Railways slumped to lose their last seven wickets for 110 runs.
A well-rounded team performance from Vidharba ambushed Rajasthan by 63 runs at the Emerald High School Ground in Indore. Pankaj Singh's hostile spell of seam bowling gave Rajasthan the early momentum, with Amit Paunikar falling in the first over. After a steadying hand from Akshay Kolhar, Ravi Jangid and Ranjit Paradkar gave impetus to the innings with sparkling half-centuries. Pankaj snared four wickets in an economical spell, but Gaurav Upadhyaya smashed four sixes and ensured that the innings ended with a flourish. Despite Rashmi Parida's steady 61 and a frantic 54 off 56 balls from Robin Bist, Rajasthan were never in the hunt and were eventually bowled out in the penultimate over. Umesh Yadav and Shrikant Wagh shared five wickets to take the bowling honours.