Saurashtra sense win after another 18 tumble
For the second day in a row, eighteen wickets fell at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi. With two more days to go, Saurashtra brightened their hopes for a knockout berth by setting a target of 247 and then reducing Railways to 97 for 6.
Railways, reeling overnight at 71 for 8, could only add a further ten runs in their first-innings. Subsequently Saurashtra, sitting on a comfortable lead of 94, failed for the second time in succession as they mustered a meagre 152, but the target set seemed to be enough going into the third day.
With the exception of Ravindra Jadeja, who played late to top score with 45, the visitors showed the same lack of application as that of the Railways' batsmen. Luckily it did not hurt Saurashtra so much as Kamlesh Makvana ripped apart the Railways' batting order in their second innings with his fastish offbreaks, which fetched him his fifth five-for in first-class cricket. There was not much hope for Railways when senior batsmen like Sanjay Bangar and Shivakant Shukla gave away their wickets by charging out to Makvana.
The Railways coach Abhay Sharma, however, didn't blame the nature of the pitch for the slew of wickets. "Some of our batsmen played bad shots. I don't think the curator is responsible in any way. When you have a three-day gap between two matches, a curator could have hardly done anything," Sharma said. "In northern India, it's difficult to water the pitch as it might remain wet and also you can't just use the roller on a dry pitch."
Orissa were staring at a big first-innings deficit as they ended on 76 for 6 in reply to Rajasthan's 423 in Jaipur. Robin Bist's unbeaten 127 and Puneet Yadav's 63 were instrumental in Rajasthan getting to an imposing score. The pair added 124 for the fifth wicket before Yadav was caught behind by Alok Mangaraj. The 24-year-old Bist, originally from Delhi, continued till he ran out of partners, hitting 16 fours in his knock. This is his fourth century in five matches for Bist, who at 829 runs is the top run-maker of season so far. Basanth Mohanty finished with 4 for 104.
Rajasthan's Pankaj Singh then made early inroads with the ball before Sumit Mathur, instrumental in Rajasthan's victory against Saurashtra last week, took three wickets in five overs to leave the visitors in trouble. With Orissa still adrift by 347 runs, the defending champions would like the enforce the follow-on and try and go for an innings victory to get the bonus points and keep alive the chance of a knockout berth for second year in a row. If they do manage to do that, Rajasthan would have to thank Bist a lot. "This has been my best season in Ranji Trophy. Before this season, I had just one Ranji century. Now, I have five," Bist told the The Times of India at the end of the second day's play.
Wasim Jaffer became the highest run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy and, along with the belligerent Suryakumar Yadav, steered Mumbai past Punjab's first-innings total during a typically elegant knock. Punjab toiled all day but were blunted by Mumbai's ultra-defensive approach in the first session, and later by Jaffer's and Yadav's aggression. With Saurashtra and Rajasthan in strong positions in their games, Punjab's chances of making the quarter-finals were slim. Read the full report here.
The second day's play in Shimoga followed the course of the first, as Uttar Pradesh mirrored Karnataka's batting effort to finish 39 runs short of the first-innings lead, with four wickets standing. Like their Karnataka counterparts on day one, UP built a solid base in the morning, only to lose wickets in a clump in the lead-up to tea. Like Stuart Binny on the first day, Mohammad Kaif battled through the slump, before stalling it with a dogged seventh-wicket stand. Read the full report here.
Tamil Nadu strengthened their position against Madhya Pradesh in Chennai, with Dinesh Karthik scoring 156 - his second century in as many games - to take the team to 486. The hosts then consolidated their position by sending the vistors' top order comprising Naman Ojha, Mohnish Mishra and Devendra Bundela - essentially the MP batting's engine-room - back to the dressing room in no time.
Earlier Karthik was bold in his strokeplay, despite having only the tail for support. Yo Mahesh, M Rangarajan and L Balaji all frustrated the MP bowlers, while Karthik went from strength to strength. After the debuant Amarjeet Singh failed to latch on a hard-hit return catch when Karthik was on 89, the former Tamil Nadu captain progressed to make 156. For MP, Ishwar Pandey finished with 4 for 123 off nearly 40 overs. Zafar Ali, the MP opener, witnessed three partners depart before stumps, leaving plenty for the visitors to do on the third day to match TN's score.
Gritty half-centuries from Sourav Ganguly and Anustup Majumdar put Bengal well on course to take a first-innings lead against Baroda at the Moti Bagh Stadium in Vadodara. It was an eventful day for Ganguly who started the morning by wrapping up the Baroda innings while he finished with figures of 3 for 1. But Bengal were in for a rude jolt when they were wobbling at 98 for 4, which included the wicket of Manoj Tiwary, who had scored a century in each of his previous three matches. Bengal lost their opener Jayojit Basu to the left-arm seamer Gagandeep Singh, before Firdaush Bhaja had Arindam Das caught in the slips. Shreevats Goswami's boundary-filled 38 came to an end when he nicked Gagandeep to the keeper. Gagandeep struck again when he had Manoj Tiwary caught at cover.
Luckily Ganguly found a stable partner in Majumdar and the paired added vital 93 runs for the fifth wicket before the former Indian captain retired hurt due a left hamstring pull. Till then, Ganguly had 60 runs to his credit including nine fours. Majumdar, who ended the day unbeaten on 71, added a further 73 with Laxmi Shukla before stumps.
Gujarat just about managed to take a slender first-innings lead of 21 runs against Haryana in Surat. Resuming on 46 for 1, the Gujarat top order showed an appalling lack of discipline and application, with no one managing even a half century. Luckily for the team, Pratharesh Parmar and Manprit Juneja showed some resistance, adding 63 for the fifth wicket, to help Gujarat to match Haryana's score. For Haryana the job was done by India legspinner Amit Mishra and the debutant offspinner Jayant Yadav, as the pair took three wickets apiece to peg the hosts back. The other debutant, Mohit Sharma, took two wickets.
Haryana erased the deficit of 21 by ending the day on a healthy 61 for no loss. If Gujarat lose this match, they would be relegated to the Plate division. And with the pitch aiding the spinners, a result seems likely. "The match is wide open and any target above 250-275 is going to be difficult to chase in the fourth innings on this ground with the wicket taking spin," Jayendra Saigal, the Gujarat coach, said. "Our batsmen did not do justice to their talent today."