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December 15, 2011
An exciting final morning can be expected in Kolkata as Bengal are 34 runs short of taking the first-innings lead while Delhi need two wickets to grab three points. Such a scenario was possible only because of Manoj Tiwary, who compiled his third consecutive first-class century, and is now 37 runs adrift of a second double-century this season. Beginning the day on 84 for 4, Bengal survived an early morning scare after Sourav Ganguly was dropped by Shikar Dhawan at second slip off Parvinder Awana on 19. Though Ganguly managed to reach his 88th first-class fifty, he was living dangerously and eventually played into the hands of Yogesh Nagar at gully, trying to chase a wide delivery off Pradeep Sangwan.
Tiwary remained unruffled, picking runs through the day at a consistent pace. He cobbled together vital partnerships with Laxmi Shukla and Subhomoy Das to keep the Delhi bowlers busy. Tiwary did blame Bengal's experienced batsmen for playing the wrong shots but was positive about overtaking Delhi in the morning. "They [Delhi] have already taken the (second) new ball. There isn't much movement in the wicket now and whatever grass is there will go with the mowing tomorrow," Tiwary told the media after the day's play.
Haryana were facing the prospect of an innings defeat against Madhya Pradesh in Rohtak after fast bowler TP Sudhindra's career-best seven-for made the hosts follow-on. Haryana were dismissed for just 126 in reply to MP's 487, with Sudhindra adding three more wickets today to his haul of four on the second day. It was only captain Amit Mishra's unbeaten 45 that carried Haryana past 100. Their troubles grew when Sudhindra struck with the third delivery of the follow-on innings, removing Rahul Dewan for a duck. Nitin Saini and Sunny Singh fought back in a century stand, but Asif Ali bowled Saini for 53 to leave Haryana needing another 214 to avoid an innings defeat. Sunny remained unbeaten on 75 to give Haryana hope that they could achieve that.
An unbeaten 138-run alliance for the fifh wicket between the rookie pair of Pratharesh Panchal and Manprit Juneja helped Gujarat recover from a top-order failure to reach 293 for 4 in Ahmedabad. Parthiv Patel had only made four when he edged an away-going delivery from Jagannathan Kaushik, and was brilliantly caught by R Prasanna in the third over of the Gujarat innings. Avi Barot and Niraj Patel managed to get the starts but both fell to offspinner Sunny Gupta. When Priyank Panchal, too, was dismissed by Gupta for 80, Gujarat were in trouble at 155 for 4. But Parmar dug in with a dogged, unbeaten 45 and debutant Juneja hit 14 fours in his unbeaten 84 to ensure that there were no further jolts for the hosts on the third day. Despite their gritty efforts, Tamil Nadu's 698 is still looking miles away going into the final day.
A solid batting show from their top order put Rajasthan in a position to declare early on the final day and have a crack at Saurashtra in Jaipur. After Pankaj Singh completed his first five-for of the season and Saurashtra were bowled out for 265, conceding a first-innings lead of 131, Aakash Chopra produced an unbeaten 87 to put Rajasthan firmly in control. Vineet Saxena and Hrishikesh Kanitkar provided Chopra with support, both making scores in the 30s. Pankaj, the second-highest wicket-taker last Ranji season, has carried on with the same grit this year, too, and was confident of having a second go at the visitors, who on 11 points, are desperately searching for positive result to keep their knockout hopes alive. Pankaj said he just took advantage of Saurashtra's anxiousness.
"The pitch was mostly good yesterday but it wasn't consistent. Today it was far slower. I knew the batsmen would go for false strokes if I hit the right areas. They were always under pressure and I just took advantage of it," Pankaj told The Times of India.
If the fog does not play spoilsport for the fourth successive day in Lucknow tomorrow, Uttar Pradesh will entertain hopes of overtaking Mumbai's first-innings score to grab the vital three points they need so desperately to keep their knockout prospects alive. So far 83 overs have been lost to fog and on Thursday play was delayed by 135 minutes. Out of the 73 overs scheduled, only 53 could be bowled.
As soon as Mumbai lost their final wicket in the first over of the morning, UP reached 166 for 2 in reply to Mumbai's 414 before bad light curtailed the day's play. Though UP lost Tanmay Srivastava and Mohammad Kaif before reaching a score of 100, the pair of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Parvinder Singh played enterprisingly to stitch together an unbeaten 68-run partnership for the third wicket. Bhuvneshwar was lucky to survivie after being dropped on seven at square leg by Abhishek Nayar and then on 27 by Kaustubh Pawar in the slips. In contrast Parvinder, one of the prolific scorers for UP, played aggressively, hitting five boundaries including two sixes in his 52-ball stay so far.
Interestingly, in a scenario where more than 90 overs are lost due to bad light, the rule states that both teams would share at least two points each. But with Suresh Raina in their ranks, UP will hope to get the lead without having to rely on the elements.
Orissa require another 86 runs, with five wickets in hand, to overhaul Railways' first-innings score of 379 in Delhi. Orissa's openers put on a stand of 124 in all, after resuming on 108 for no loss. Subhrajit Sahoo was out for 70 to end the partnership, but another steady stand followed between Paresh Patel and Subit Biswal. Paresh fell just five short of a hundred, triggering a mini-collapse. Orissa went from 202 for 1 to 205 for 5, before Abhilash Mallick and Govind Podder steadied them with an unbroken partnership of 89. The veterans Sanjay Bangar and Murali Kartik, who bowled the maximum overs on the penultimate day, hold the key in stopping Orissa from taking away the three points now available from this match.
On a gloomy day in Bangalore, Punjab became the first team to take the first-innings lead against Karnataka this season. Mayank Sidhana's second half-century of the match, and bad light that ended play more than an hour early made a draw the likeliest result as Punjab ended the day nearly 200 ahead with only three wickets down. Read the full report here.
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