Rising from the dead and Pathan problems
Rising from the dead Mumbai and Saurashtra shrugged off their poor start to the season, completing thumping home wins and gaining bonus points as well. Neither team had registered a win this season and were in line to enter the relegation zone. Mumbai vented their rage on Gujarat, storming to victory by an innings and 163 runs, while Saurashtra routed Delhi ten wickets. Uttar Pradesh, the defending champions who'd also had a disastrous start to the season, were on course for a fine win against Tamil Nadu before a final-day collapse thwarted their bid.
A round of firsts A number of individual firsts were achieved in the fifth round: Mumbai's Rohit Sharma cracked his maiden first-class century and soon made it a double; Punjab's Uday Kaul struck his first hundred, rescuing his side from a mess; D Kalyankrishna led Andhra's dominance over Karnataka with his best figures (6 for 43); and Ali Murtaza managed 68 on debut, enabling UP to gain the first-innings lead at Chennai.
Rajkot rumblings The Saurashtra-Delhi clash at Rajkot wasn't without incident. The most newsworthy event was related to Ishant 'Will-he-won't-he' Sharma and the confusion over his South Africa trip - Ishant was initially informed about his selection before he fell victim to board shenanigans. But there was an interesting sidelight on the final day as well.
Suhail Sharma, caught at slips by Jaydev Shah and given out by umpire VN Kulkarni, was walking back to the pavilion when his team-mates shouted to him to stay put. Sharma had crossed the rope, when the umpire asked for assistance from the third umpire Jayant Jadeja. The third umpire failed to make a decision because of inconclusive footage from both angles, the decision came again to the on-field umpire. Kulkarni stuck to his earlier decision and gave Suhail his marching orders.
Brothers in arms Irfan Pathan isn't the only Pathan struggling for form. His elder brother Yusuf, the offspinner, was dropped for Baroda's fifth-round clash against Haryana. Meanwhile several voices in Vadodara criticised the move to send back Irfan from South Africa. Ashok Mankad, the former Indian opener who's currently coaching Baroda, had mixed feelings: "It's good for us that Irfan is coming back and he'll strengthen our team. But I think it's neither good for Irfan nor for Indian cricket." Mehdi Sheikh, Irfan's coach, felt the decision should have been taken before the Test series and not in the middle of it.
Karnataka's loss, Assam's gain Assam sprung a surprise by comprehensively topping Group A of the Plate table but they did it largely thanks to two veterans who moved from Karnataka. J Arunkumar, the former Karnataka captain, has stood out with 542 runs in five games (the second on the list is Vasanth Saravanan with 255) while Anand Katti, the left-arm spinner who was part of the Ranji Trophy winning Karnataka side from 1996, topped the bowling charts with 21 wickets at 16.42.
The customary Nehra corner Our man Ashish Nehra managed his third century of the season - his third with the ball. Having conceded 105 against Uttar Pradesh and 171 against Karnataka, he followed up with 3 for 115 off 38 overs against Saurashtra at Rajkot. His season figures currently read 15 for 578 from five games. His strike-rate of 74 is the highest among the 25 top wicket-takers in the Elite Group.