The friendly drop and the case of the missing allrounder
The fatal drive
After Orissa conceded a 312-run first-innings lead against Karnataka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the Beheras - Natraj and Niranjan - battled hard as their side ended the third day with only one wicket down. On the fourth morning, Karnataka removed Natraj, but the other Behera continued to block. Karnataka's hopes of an outright win were fast dwindling as tea approached. Suddenly, Niranjan decided to drive his 251st delivery, and to Karnataka's delight, was bowled off an inside edge. The gates had opened, and Karnataka barged in gleefully. With the broad blades of the Beheras out of the way, the three Mohantys, Rakesh, Debasis and Basanth, melted away. When Abhimanyu Mithun bowled last man Dhiraj Singh for his fourth wicket, Orissa had lost their last seven batsmen for 76 runs to hurtle to an innings defeat, and Karnataka were richer by six points.
Lone man standing
Punjab opener Sarul Kanwar, playing his third first-class game, defied Baroda with a belligerent 130, his maiden century. However, the rest of the side collectively managed 108, and Baroda enforced the follow-on with a 173-run lead. Mukesh Narula, the Baroda coach, felt the game was being played on two different pitches, one on which Kanwar was hammering the bowling all around, and the other one on which the rest of the Punjab batsmen were struggling. Kanwar had to retire hurt in the second innings with the score on 12, and by the time he came back, his side had slipped to 27 for 3. He tried to fight his lonely battle again, but when he was dismissed for an aggressive 45, Punjab were in tatters at 87 for 8. They eventually lost by an innings and plenty to spare, with ten Punjab batsmen together scoring as many runs as Kanwar had.
The friendly drop
Amol Muzumdar, who belongs to Mumbai as much as the Wankhede Stadium and the Cricket Club of India do, was "glad to be back" to the city for Assam's game against the defending champions. During the game, he also indulged in some friendly banter with former team-mates Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar. But there was no friendliness on the field, as Assam had Mumbai in trouble at 291 for 9 chasing 298 for the first-innings lead. That is, until an opportunity arrived to Muzumdar at first slip, as his old mate Agarkar slashed hard. And Muzumdar clanged it. "I was standing a few feet ahead than usual because the ball wasn't carrying enough. It came at great speed, making it difficult for me to take the catch,'' Muzumdar told the Times of India. The reprieve proved costly as Agarkar's 29 took Mumbai past Assam's score.
The case of the missing allrounder
Irfan Pathan has been conspicuous by his absence this season. The allrounder was supposed to miss the first two games as he was undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy for a persistent back injury. Four games into the season, the injury still persists, and the rehabilitation continues. Narula wants his key player back, and quickly. "I thought he would be resuming practice this week, but he has still not started bowling. He is under the NCA physio at the moment. I am hoping he comes back before the knockouts. We are a very young side, and would need him if we go through to the knockout stage." Baroda have managed quite well without Irfan so far, winning two out of four games with bonus points and drawing another.
After Parida, it's Parab
Baroda batsman Satyajit Parab has announced his retirement, after Railways offspinner Kulamani Parida did so earlier this month. Parab had not played a single game this season and Narula had earlier said that he was not reporting for practice sessions. Parab has made more than 4700 first-class runs with 16 hundreds at an average of 34.90. Part of the India A squad that toured England in 2003, he scored 809 runs at 58 when Baroda won the Ranji Trophy in 2000-01. "Like any other cricketer, I had hoped to get into the national team but failed to find a place in it," Parab told the Times of India. Narula said Parab had been a good performer over the years, and it was a bit early for him to retire at 35, given that his team-mate Connor Williams was going strong at 37. "He had an injury that was not healing. He wanted a final game before he went, but unfortunately could not clear the fitness tests."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo