Juneja scores rare double on debut on day of draws
Manprit Juneja became only the fourth Indian to score a double-century on first-class debut as Gujarat made an impressive reply to Tamil Nadu's huge first-innings score in Ahmedabad. It was not enough to deny Tamil Nadu three first-innings points but the total of 539 was Gujarat's highest of the season. Juneja, 21, joined Amol Muzumdar, Anshuman Pandey and Gundappa Viswanath as Indian batsmen to score a double-century on debut. Juneja had played eight List A games previously and had a highest score of 64.
Overnight unbeaten on 84, Juneja started the day in the company of Pratharesh Panchal, who was five short of half century on the third evening. Though Panchal reached his fifty he would soon depart on 66 and when Gujarat needed 204 more runs to avoid follow-on. It meant that the onus was now on 21-year-old Juneja and 22-year-old Jesal Karia, the last specialist batting pair. Even if Karia himself was playing only his fourth first-class mach, he showed no nerves and played aggressively. That helped Juneja settled down as he reached his maiden century by taking twelve runs of a Yo Mahesh over.
He got an immediate reprieve when R Prasanna dropped him on 104 at second slip against the bowling of J Kaushik. On 170 Juneja lost Karia (72 off 74 balls) and had only the tail now for support. He carried batting without any nerves, but three short of the double-century mark a sharp outside edge against Kaushik flew straight to Prasanna, who was standing wide at second slip. But for the second time in the day he deprived Kaushik of Juneja's wicket. A push to the midwicket brought wide smile on Juneja's face as he leapt in the air to celebrate his landmark. He had surpassed Nari Contractor's 152 (against Baroda in 1952-53) to become the highest scorer for Gujarat on debut.
In the end Gujarat fell short by 158 runs but Tamil opted to bat the second time. The three points sealed a quarter-final berth for Tamil Nadu but the one point Gujarat got was also important as it keeps them off the bottom of the Group B table.
Manoj Tiwary and No. 10 Veer Pratap Singh stuck it out on the fourth morning at Eden Gardens and took Bengal past Delhi's first-innings score. The three points improve Bengal's chances of staying in the Elite division, and even keep alive slim hopes of a quarter-final berth. Delhi have finished all their matches and will not be progressing further in the season.
Bengal started the day still 34 runs behind with just two wickets in hand, but Tiwary was batting on 163 not out. For company he had Veer Pratap, a 19-year-old on first-class debut. Veer Pratap managed to survive 51 balls, offering a straight bat to everything that came his way to score 15 crucial runs, while at the other end Tiwary took his score to 187. Their 43-run partnership secured three points for Bengal. Tiwary, whose nine-hour vigil put Bengal in control, was dismissed when the host took a five-run lead. Immediately Sourav Ganguly, the Bengal captain, declared the innings an hour before lunch. After that Delhi could not do much but have some batting practice. Puneet Bisht, Mithun Manhas and Yogesh Nagar signed off for the season with half-centuries.
Bengal have eight points with a game in hand and have a good chance to avoid relegation if they can gain at least three points in the final Group match against Baroda. In case they manage to beat Baroda with a bonus point they could even fancy a knockout berth if the other results in the group go in their favour.
But Tiwary said Bengal need to roll their sleeves and work hard if they have any ambitions of winning the Ranji Trophy. "Batsmen are getting out at the wrong time and to soft dismissals. There is also a bit of concern over the bowling because after knocking off seven-eight wickets we are struggling to dislodge the remaining few. Catching is a big issue too. So, overall, we have to do better in all three departments to play good cricket and pick up the points," Bengal's leading batsman told The Times of India.
Haryana hung on to earn a draw against Madhya Pradesh in Rohtak but three points for a first-innings lead were enough to ensure MP will be in the quarter-finals. Following on, Haryana had reached 147 for 2 by the end of the third day and started the fourth looking to bat time. They lost Sunny Singh early, but Prateek Pawar and Sachin Rana scored patient half-centuries to thwart MP's push for an outright win. Rana scored 64 while Pawar batted for 223 balls to get 84. The pair were dismissed within five overs of each other to give MP an opening but Priyank Tehlan played an important innings of 34 off 95 balls. TP Sudhindra took two wickets in the day to give him a match-haul of 10 for 131.
A six-wicket haul from medium-pacer Sumit Mathur made Rajasthan the only winners in the sixth round of games, as they shot out Saurashtra for 143 and won by 229 runs in Jaipur. The victory Rajasthan's first this season, has them eight points, staving off the fear of relegation. What more they now stand an outside chance of making the knockout stages. As soon as Aakash Chopra was trapped lbw by Jaydev Unadkat two runs short of a century, Rajasthan made up their minds for an early declaration. A target of 373 from 76 overs made it a lively final day.
In the first innings, Mathur had played the supporting role while Pankaj Singh had taken five wickets. This time around, the roles reversed. As Pankaj kept things tight at one end, Mathur attacked the off stump with only two fielders on the leg side. Pankaj and Rituraj Singh took a couple of wickets early, and then Mathur ripped through the rest of the line-up to finish with 6 for 33. Saurashtra needed this win desperately. Their top order had got good starts but there was no big partnership. But with Mathur hitting the right strides, they barely got an opportunity to settle down. "I knew this was my chance to show what I'm capable of. There was a bit of help from the pitch and a lot of support from the management, especially bowling coach Meyrick Pringle," Mathur told The Times of India.
A middle-order collapse, sparked by Ramesh Powar, meant Uttar Pradesh fell 102 runs short of Mumbai's first-innings score in Lucknow. UP had started the day on 166 for 2 and would have entertained hopes of going past Mumbai's 414. But it was not as straightforward. Only four overs were possible in the first session due to fog but Aavishkar Salvi, in the third over of the day, induced an edge of Bhuvneshwar Kumar which wicketkeeper Sushant Marathe easily pouched. Parvinder Singh and Suresh Raina seemed to have put UP on course, with half-centuries. But Powar bowled a beauty as he pitched an off break in the rough that zipped past Parvinder's defence to clean bowl him. Arish Alam stayed back to a fuller length delivery from Powar and was lbw. Raina, who looked at ease, was then caught short of his crease by a direct hit from Kaustubh Pawar.
Suddenly UP were struggling. Piyush Chawla followed Raina two overs later, and then Powar completed the slide by dismissing Praveen Gupta. From 215 for 4, UP had slipped to 253 for 8. RP Singh made 31 gritty runs, surviving for an hour before he made the erroneous decision to sweep against the spin as the top edge went straight to Iqbal Abdula at midwicket. The UP captain's wicket helped Powar to his 24th five-wicket haul in his first-class career. The three points confirm Mumbai's place in the quarters while UP will have to get a result against table-toppers Karnataka in their last game.
Orissa lost five wickets for 37 runs on the fourth morning against Railways at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi, and consigned themselves to relegation from the Elite division. Orissa started the day favourites to take the lead, with 86 runs needed, five wickets in hand and two batsmen - Abhilash Mallick and Govind Podder, who had put on 84 runs on the third day at the crease. Unfortunately Podder added five runs to his overnight score of 39 before getting bowled by Krishnakant Upadhyay, Railways' highest wicket-taker this season (16) and the innings disintegrated thereafter. Upadhyay struck again, Basant Mohanty was bowled by Murali Kartik and Mallick was run out soon after reaching his half-century by a direct hit from Upadhyay. The crumble meant Railways had secured three crucial points, which kept them in the hunt for the knockouts, while Orissa languished at the bottom with just two points.
Punjab had the unenviable task of facing the top two teams in the table away in their final two rounds of a tightly contested group. They will be satisfied with how the first of those matches have gone, after taking three points on the basis of a first-innings lead against Karnataka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The one point Karnataka earned though was enough to keep them on top of the table. They are now through to the quarter-finals. Read full report here.