UP take charge on bowler-dominated day
Saurashtra 116 for 8 (Shah 57, Praveen Kumar 3-35, Tyagi 3-43) trail Uttar Pradesh 188 (Kaif 80, Maniar 6-88, Jobanputra 3-60) by 72 runs
Saurashtra's new-ball bowlers Sandeep Jobanputra and Sandip Maniar were the stars with the ball as Uttar Pradesh were bundled for 188, but by stumps, one of them was batting and the other - the last man - was padded up, as UP had Saurashtra tottering at 116 for 8.
On a day when eighteen wickets fell - including four occasions when two fell in the same over - Saurashtra will rue letting UP recover after having them at 69 for 7.
Saurashtra's decision to field seemed to have paid off, with Maniar using the early morning freshness and the life in the wicket intelligently. He struck with the first ball he bowled, as Rohit Prakash opened the face and edged to wicketkeeper Sagar Jogiyani. A loose drive from Suresh Raina resulted in another edge to Jogiyani, before Amir Khan, playing in the absence of Tanmay Srivastava, was done in by one that pitched on the stumps and moved away. The first three dismissals had all come in similar fashion - caught Jogiyani bowled Maniar - as UP were reeling at 15 for 3.
Mohammad Kaif and Ravikant Shukla then put together a sensible partnership, lifting the total to 69 in quick time. Kaif got a reprieve on 20 when he drove uppishly to wide mid-on; Rakesh Dhurv was late in moving and only got his fingertips to the ball. Shukla scored 29 off 28 balls with six cleanly struck boundaries, before he was out shouldering arms to Jobanputra off the first over after drinks.
Piyush Chawla, promoted to No. 6, was caught on the crease to his first ball and Rahat Elahi didn't stay long, edging a widish delivery off Maniar to Jogiyani. Praveen Kumar hit two fours before missing one from Kanaiya Vaghela as UP were reduced to 110 for 7 five minutes before lunch.
The Moti Bagh wicket has a reputation for assisting the bowlers in the first and third sessions, and the first day's play followed the script, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, playing his third first-class match, hung around with Kaif after lunch. He stuck to his task of playing second fiddle to Kaif: his first run came off the 17th ball he faced, the second off 29th, and the third from the 38th. The two put together 28 runs as Saurashtra let the game drift, allowing Kaif to take singles even off the fifth or sixth ball of the over.
Kaif top scored with 80, and the lack of a third seamer hurt Saurashtra as Jobanputra and Maniar operated for the majority of the innings. Kaif, the UP captain, finally fell to a good diving catch by Jaydev Shah, his Saurashtra counterpart. They were lucky to nail him immediately after he had been reprieved: off the previous ball, Firoze Bhambhania had spilled a chance at mid-off off Maniar. The eighth-wicket partnership cost Saurashtra 49 crucial runs, with Bhuvneshwar contributing 14. UP were finally dismissed for 188, with Bhuvneshwar unbeaten on 33. Maniar took 6 for 88 and Jobanputra 3 for 60.
Saurashtra were on top after bowling out UP for a low score, but it was now their turn to struggle with the bat. Praveen and Sudeep Tyagi took three wickets each while Bhuvneshwar took two. Praveen struck first in the third over, when Kanaiya Vaghela edged one which moved away.
Shitanshu Kotak, who had batted for 796 minutes without getting out against Mumbai in the previous match, spent only two minutes and two balls in the middle this time. He was superbly set up by Praveen: the first ball moved away, and Kotak let it pass, but the next one straightened and trapped him plumb in front. Sudeep Tyagi then scalped the big wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara, who played on to one that was quicker and rose more than expected. Saurashtra were reeling at 7 for 3.
Shah, who in a surprise move opened the innings and was the best batsman of the day, then began to rebuild the innings. He played with soft hands, and didn't miss out on any scoring opportunity.
With Jogiyani, Shah added 31 for the fourth wicket before Praveen struck again as Jogiyani missed an offcutter. Shah dominated another brief partnership but Bhuvneshwar took two in two to pull Saurashtra down again. Soon after Shah reached his half-century, Mohammad Kaif brought Tyagi back into the attack and he delivered, removing Shah and Kamlesh Makvana off successive balls. Jobanputra survived the hat-trick and hit a few lusty blows in an unbroken 29-run ninth-wicket stand with Dhurv, who was not out on 21 at the close.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo.