Binny lifts Karnataka to top
Stuart Binny was the hero for Karnataka as he took his second five-for of the match to conjure a victory for Karnataka over Orissa in Bhubaneswar. The draw looked the likeliest result as Karnataka declared 32 overs into the final day, after Amit Verma's century and his patient 139-run stand for the seventh wicket with Sunil Raju took their lead to 300. Orissa struggled to put together a partnership as they faced about two sessions of batting to get a draw - the highest stand was for the final wicket.
The top-order wickets were shared by the Karnataka bowlers, but the match really changed with a double-strike from Binny in the 31st over which reduced Orissa to 100 for 6. Binny, with only 19 wickets in 30 previous first-class matches, swept through the tail to close in on his ten-wicket haul for the match. The final pair of Basant Mohanty and Alok Mangaraj slammed 47 in less than three overs before Binny bowled Mohanty to seal the win and his ten-for. The win lifted Karnataka to 20 points and the top of the table, three clear of Mumbai.
The only interest on the final day in Jaipur was whether Rajasthan would be able to overhaul Punjab's mammoth total of 597. It was a difficult task for Rajasthan, though they had made a reasonably good start, reaching 321 for 4 by stumps on the third day. Punjab fast bowler Manpreet Gony was also injured and couldn't bowl much on the final day. With the in-form Robin Bist at the crease, having completed his third century in three matches, Rajasthan began the day well, and Rashmi Parida extended their stand beyond 200 before Parida was bowled by Brainder Sran. The wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik fell soon after, and Rajasthan's chances faded sharply once Vivek Yadav and Bist were dismissed in the space of three overs. The tail dragged the total to 500, but Punjab grabbed a 97-run lead giving them three crucial points which kept them tied in third place with Uttar Pradesh at 12 points. After the first innings, the match was only a formality as Bipul Sharma smashed a run-a-ball 56 to take Punjab to 94 for 2 by close.
Wasim Jaffer returned to form with a comfortable century, which became the only element of interest in the match on Friday. Saurashtra had dominated in Rajkot on the previous three days before having to settle for a draw. They earned three valuable points to keep their chances of making the knockout stage still alive. Despite getting only a solitary point Mumbai are well placed, on 17 points and in second spot behind group leaders Karnataka. For more on this match, click here.
A day after Virender Sehwag's heroics at Indore, there was more excitement as Madhya Pradesh pulled off a thrilling two-wicket victory over Delhi at the Emerald High School Ground. The day began with MP needing 59 more to win, with five wickets in hand. Udit Birla, the 22-year-old batsman in his first season, showed a terrific temperament as he guided MP to the finish line, though Delhi had some vastly experienced bowlers like Rajat Bhatia and Ashish Nehra. It was the lowest profile of Delhi's medium-pacers, Pankaj Awana, who made all the breakthroughs on Friday, but despite his three strikes, MP inched their way to the target of 299, with Birla remaining unbeaten on 49. It was the start of a day in which each of the top three teams in the group won.
Tamil Nadu soared to the top of the table with a win over Bengal, who are bottom of the table and staring at relegation. Since the margin of victory in Kolkata was ten wickets, Tamil Nadu get the bonus point as well. Bengal's hope of salvaging something from the game was in the hands of the experienced overnight pair of captain Saurav Ganguly and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. However, three overs into the day Ganguly was dismissed by the opposition captain, L Balaji. The wickets tumbled regularly after that and Bengal folded for 246, leaving Tamil Nadu a target of 32. That was knocked off Abhinav Mukund and M Vijay in less than five overs, securing Tamil Nadu's place atop Group B.
Gujarat crumbled in their second-innings against Baroda to slide to a 241-run defeat that intensified both the race for the top three and the relegation battle at the bottom. The victory at Moti Bagh Stadium lifted Baroda to 13 points, tied in second place with Madhya Pradesh, and three ahead of fourth-ranked Delhi. Needing to bat out the day to save the game, Gujarat folded for 123, holding out for a mere 47.3 overs. Left-arm medium-pacer Gagandeep Singh, playing only his second first-class match, was the wrecker-in-chief nipping out five wickets as Baroda proved they could win even without the Pathan brothers -Irfan is with the national side, while Yusuf is out with an injury. There was little resistance from Gujarat with the top score of 22 coming from the No. 9 Mehul Patel. The result leaves Gujarat on 7 points, two ahead of cellar-dwellers Bengal.