A collapse and a half, and a queer selection
Eighty-seven runs needed with eight wickets in hand, Yusuf Pathan at the crease and Ambati Rayudu to follow. Baroda were overwhelming favourites to win at home against Uttar Pradesh, and were looking to consolidate their pole position in Group B of the Super League. Four Sudeep Tyagi deliveries later, half the Baroda side was back in the pavilion, including Rayudu for a first-ball duck. Yusuf gritted his teeth, but continued to play in the only gear he possesses, the top one. Tyagi removed Baroda captain Pinal Shah. Yusuf blazed away to 49 off 39 deliveries, slamming four sixes along the way. Thirty-three needed with four wickets standing. Bhuvneshwar Kumar took over from Tyagi, and got the big fish, Yusuf. Now Baroda were rudderless, and two more batsmen fell in the same over. Tyagi was not to be outdone, though, and got the last man with the first ball of the next over. Baroda had lost four wickets in six balls with no addition to the total. Uttar Pradesh had won by 32 runs, after conceding a 119-run first-innings lead.
The near collapse
Forty-eight runs needed with eight wickets in hand. With Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane at the crease, Mumbai were all set for their first outright win of this season, against Railways. The veteran Railway bowlers, Murali Kartik and JP Yadav, combined to dismantle the line-up. Jaffer sent in left-hand batsman Iqbal Abdulla to counter Kartik's left-arm spin. Abdulla lasted ten balls before Kartik got him. Kartik struck again in his next over. Yadav compounded Mumbai's woes by getting two more wickets in successive overs, and suddenly Mumbai were thinking about a draw, with only 15 runs to get. That man Rohit Sharma, who usually squanders away starts, batted doggedly for once, to ensure Mumbai wouldn't meet Baroda's fate. His unbeaten 31 took the defending champions home in the penultimate over.
When Laxmi Shukla and Wriddhiman Saha hit personal-best scores in a 417-run stand - the third-highest for the sixth-wicket in first-class cricket - at Eden Gardens, Bengal felt confident enough to declare on 562 against Assam late on the second day. The visitors' openers responded with a 150-run stand, and former India batsman S Sriram took Assam to 293 for 3 on the third evening. After Sriram fell with the score on 386, Tarjinder Singh and Gokul Sharma added 176 to take Assam past Bengal late on the second evening. 1150 runs scored and 13 bowlers used to take 12 wickets in four days. Did anyone say it's a batsman's game? Anyone was right.
You don't concede a 368-run lead in a four-day game and escape with a draw, unless maybe you have conspired with the weather Gods. But Gujarat managed it all on their own at the Feroz Shah Kotla, against Delhi. After having lasted 23.4 overs on the first morning to make 71, they defended for 774 deliveries in the second innings, down to the last man. Opener Priyank Panchal led the way with his maiden first-class hundred, and No. 8 Rohit Dahiya, the debutant medium-pacer, defied Gujarat for 135 minutes to make 2 runs in 109 balls, with a strike rate lower than Chris Martin's Test batting average. To round off the defiance, No. 11 Ishwar Choudhary survived the last five deliveries of the match, as Delhi got three points while chasing six for the innings win.
That man Sunil Joshi refuses to fade away. He completed the Ranji double of 4000 runs and 400 wickets - and also the first-class double of 5000 runs and 500 wickets - against Haryana. At 40 and in his 19th first-class season, he still remains a force in the Karnataka side. "One fine day I'll have to go," he told the Deccan Herald. "I'm not going to be playing forever. The day I'm convinced that someone has come to the fore, I will step away." What did he think of the double? "We don't play to have these records, they are just incidental. But in saying that, it does give you some satisfaction at the end of the day."
The queer selection
Vikrant Yeligati, the offspinner, had played his first and only first-class game in September 2007. Last season, he was in the list of domestic bowlers with suspect actions, and had to spend time at the National Cricket Academy. Mumbai included him as the third spinner against Railways along with Ramesh Powar, another offspinner, and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla. He bowled only four overs in the match, all in the first innings, going for 26 runs in Railways' 201. According to a report in the Times of India, Mumbai were warned by match officials to avoid bowling him in the second innings because of his action. On a pitch where seamers took 19 wickets, the selection of the almost-absent third spinner was queer, to say the least.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo