Spirited Goa keep semi-final hopes alive
Goa 134 ( RD Asnodkar 53*, SA Asnodkar 33, Thakur 6-30) and 34 for 0 (Kamat 23*) need another 159 runs to beat Himachal Pradesh 218 and 108 (Dogra 37, D'Souza 3-26, Gadekar 3-27)
A flurry of wickets in Dharamsala has left Group A interestingly poised at the half-way stage of the final round of matches. Third-placed Goa, with all ten wickets remaining in their second innings, need 159 runs to beat leaders Himachal Pradesh.
Resuming on 40 for 2 in reply to HP's 218, Goa succumbed to 134 all out. Left-arm medium-pacer Ashok Thakur, who took two wickets on the first day, finished with career-best figures of 6 for 30. For Goa, Rohit Asnodkar top scored with an unbeaten 53, but he quickly ran out of support after his overnight partner, captain Swapnil Asnodkar, was out for 33.
With an 84-run lead, HP were the favourites heading into the second innings, but Goa's spirited performance kept their semi-final hopes alive. Opening bowlers Saurabh Bandekar and Robin D'Souza reduced the hosts to 17 for 4, but some resistance from Paras Dogra (37) and Sarandeep Singh (27) took HP past 100. D'Souza had figures of 3 for 26 from 11.4 overs, while medium-pacer Harshad Gadekar took 3 for 27 off his six. Bandekar chipped in with two. The remaining two wickets came by way of run-outs. Goa then played out 12 overs till stumps without losing a wicket.
If Goa win, they will move to 15 points - 16 if they win by an improbable ten-wicket margin. Second-placed Haryana are currently on 14, and look in danger of conceding the first-innings lead in Rohtak, which could leave them with only one point from the match. If both teams are tied on 15, Goa will edge past Haryana into the semi-finals by virtue of having scored more wins.
Haryana 113 for 4 (Sumeet Sharma 49, Beigh 2-25) trail Jammu & Kashmir 314 (ID Singh 71, Ahmed 55, Beigh 48, Ronga 41, Budhwar 5-69) by 201 runs
Left-arm medium-pacer Sanjay Budhwar scalped four wickets on the second day as Jammu & Kashmir collapsed from their overnight 248 for 5 to 314 all out, but Haryana's shaky reply left them on unsure footing in the battle for semi-final places.
Samiullah Beigh and Pranav Mahajan reduced the hosts to 11 for 3 before Sumeet Sharma and Manav Sharma led a recovery. The two pushed the score to 85 but Sumeet fell for 48, caught behind off Amit Baloria. Manav was unbeaten on 28 as Haryana reached 113 without further loss at stumps. If Goa fail to win against HP, Haryana can afford to concede a first-innings lead but when play resumes on Sunday, the pressure will be on their remaining batsmen to bail them out of trouble.
Services 244 (Chatarjee 118, Goswami 4-86) and 62 for 2 lead Assam 178 (Goswami 79, Rakesh 6-36) by 128 runs
Services look set for their first win of the season after having gained a lead of 128 over Assam on a day when 14 wickets fell at the Palam A Ground in Delhi. Left-arm medium-pacer Rakesh Kumar's career-best 6 for 36 - which included five of the top six batsmen - ensured Services three points for a first-innings lead as Assam were bowled out for 178. Rakesh took three wickets in his first two overs and Assam barely recovered from that assault. If not for Dhiraj Goswami's lower-order efforts, Assam were in danger of being bowled out for under 100. Rakesh dismissed Arnald Konwar and Goswami in consecutive overs to wrap up Assam's innings inside 55 overs. If he can repeat the feat in the second innings, Services have a chance of moving up from the bottom of the points table.
Kerala 249 for 4 (Fernandez 124, Prem 84*) trail Jharkhand 301 (Tiwary 125, Sreesanth 4-64) by 52 runs
Kerala have a good chance of gaining a first-innings lead after Robert Fernandez's maiden first-class century put them 52 runs short of the hosts' total with six wickets left at the end of day two.
However, it hadn't looked so rosy for Kerala at the start of the day. After Tinu Yohannan wrapped up Jharkhand's innings for 301 in the second over of the day, Kuldeep Sharma reduced Kerala to 45 for 3 in the first 20 overs. He trapped Antony Sebastian leg-before in the first over of the innings, and later removed Sambasiva Sarma and Sreekumar Nair in the space of five overs, during which only two runs were scored. But Fernandez and Preambhastn Prem made up for the poor start with a 185-run stand. Fernandez's 124 included 16 fours, while Prem's unbeaten 84 included nine.
Bengal 149 for 4 (Saha 77*) trail Vidarbha 403 (Gonnade 78, Shrivastava 63, Acharya 51) by 254 runs
Bengal face an uphill task to gain the first-innings lead and will hope their lower order chips in with valuable runs just as Vidarbha's did to take them to 403 in Nagpur. Overnight batsman Shalabh Shrivastava went on to score 68, his best for the season so far, while wicketkeeper Vikrant Gonnade, playing only his seventh first-class game, made a career-best 78. Both were involved in separate half-century partnerships and while Shrivastava fell after taking Vidarbha past 300, Gonnade pushed them over 400 before he was the last wicket to fall. No. 9 Shrikant Wagh scored a useful 27 and lent solid support to Gonnade.
Bengal lost three wickets in the first 12 overs - Umesh Yadav taking two in four balls - but Wriddhiman Saha and Laxmi Ratam Shukla consolidated their position with a 51-run stand, scored at more than six an over. At stumps, Saha, unbeaten on 77, was batting alongside Dibyendu Chakrabarty (15).
Tripura 32 for 1 trail Madhya Pradesh 453 for 7 dec (Jalaj Saxena 129, Bundela 94, Jatin Saxena 74, Tomar 65, Ojha 51) by 421 runs
Madhya Pradesh's middle-order batsmen helped themselves to half-centuries and built on the advantage handed to them by Jalaj Saxena's century on day one. Devendra Bundela, Naman Ojha, Jatin Saxena and Brijesh Tomar frustrated Triupra's bowlers for most of MP's 73 overs on the second day to take their side to 453 before captain Hrishikesh Kantikar decided to declare and end Tripura's misery. The hosts used nine bowlers in trying to stem the flow of runs and offspinner Jayanta Debnath was the most successful with 3 for 97. At stumps Tripura trailed MP by 421 runs with nine wickets in hand.