Maharashtra v Punjab, Ranji Trophy, Group B, Pune, 3rd day December 23, 2014

Jadhav, Tripathi hurt Punjab

Maharashtra 210 and 259 for 3 (Jadhav 109*, Tripathi 59*, Khadiwale 61) lead Punjab 391 (Yuvraj 136, Jiwanjot 68, Gurkeerat 57, Khera 51, Sanklecha 3-75) by 78 runs
Scorecard

Kedar Jadhav's first century of the season and his unbroken 148-run partnership with Rahul Tripathi all but ensured Maharashtra would deprive Punjab of an outright win and earn a point from their Ranji Trophy Group B encounter at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium

At the end of the penultimate day, Maharashtra were 259 for 3 in their second innings, with a lead of 78. But with the new ball due in seven overs, the hosts will need to be sensible against the Punjab seamers in the first hour tomorrow.

Although Jadhav and Tripathi batted well, Punjab let the game drift and lost an opportunity to claim six points. At 370 for 8, they had a lead of 160 runs and should have either attacked or declared to make best use of a pitch that aided seam bowling under early morning conditions. Maharashtra's top order had already faltered once on the first morning.

Instead, Gitansh Khera and Sandeep Sharma played sedately. Khera had even declined singles off the first couple of balls of the over and as a result, the last two wickets added just 21 runs in 10 overs. The innings, however, ended on an unfortunate note as last-man Maninder Singh was caught behind off Samad Fallah's seventh ball with umpire Amardeep Pathania forgetting to call the over.

Despite wasting the first hour, Punjab's new-ball pair came hard at the Maharashtra batsmen. Siddharth Kaul had Chirag Khurana caught at deep fine leg and Sandeep induced an edge from Vijay Zol to the wicketkeeper Khera to leave the score at 23 for 2.

Ankit Bawne, promoted to No. 4, steadied the ship along with in-form opener Harshad Khadiwale. In the last over of the session though, Bawne was hit on the helmet while trying to duck under a short ball from Maninder. The blow forced an early lunch and the Bawne did not return when play resumed.

Jadhav came out with Khadiwale and Maharashtra enjoyed a spree of boundaries in the half hour after lunch. Khadiwale, for a change, was the more aggressive of the two and his back-to-back upper cuts off Maninder were a treat.

But soon after he completed his second fifty of the season, Khadiwale was bowled by Maninder. At 111 for 3, Maharashtra were 70 runs away from making Punjab bat again. Tripathi joined Jadhav and their association reached 59 at tea and the deficit was almost wiped out.

Bawne waited with his pads on throughout the last session, but Jadhav and Tripathi ensured he got more than enough rest. Jadhav eased past his half-century and began toying with the Punjab bowling. He charged at Harbhajan Singh and collected a six over long-off and was able to rotate strike at will against the seamers.

Tripathi also displayed his prowess with two powerful drives - one through cover and the other down the ground - off medium pacer Amitoze Singh. Punjab were missing Yuvraj Singh's left-arm spin at this stage. The allrounder was resting at the hotel after playing through fever on the second day. So Harbhajan turned to Gurkeerat Singh's part-time offspin to restrict the scoring.

The only time the fourth-wicket partnership was in danger was when Tripathi survived a close shout for a stumping off Amitoze in the last hour of play. Khera had walked in a couple of steps before the ball was delivered and had quickly clipped the stumps when Tripathi offered no shot. The decision was referred to the third umpire, but the benefit of doubt went in favour of the batsman.

Jadhav, meanwhile, cruised to his 11th first-class hundred off 129 balls. In the next over, Tripathi also raised his second fifty of the match.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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