UP v Saurashtra, Ranji Super League semi-final, 2nd day January 6, 2008

Saurashtra in trouble chasing 162

Saurashtra 127 (Praveen Kumar 4-40, Tyagi 4-49) and 93 for 7 (Kotak 41*, Tyagi 3-24, Praveen Kumar 2-30) need another 69 to beat Uttar Pradesh 188 and 100 (Dhurv 5-20, Makvana 2-14)

Sudeep Tyagi claimed three wickets as Saurashtra stumbled to 93 for 7 chasing 162 © Cricinfo Ltd.
Shitanshu Kotak and the Saurashtra tail stood between Uttar Pradesh and a place in the Ranji Trophy final for the second time in three years. Saurashtra's bowlers had given the side an excellent chance of going through by bowling UP out for 100 in the second innings and setting up a target of 162 but the batsmen, continuing the match trend of rank bad batting, threw away the advantage to end the day needing another 69 with three wickets in hand.

Saurashtra have an uphill task, given that the match has an average score of 13.73 per wicket so far, but Sandeep Jobanputra and Sandip Maniar, the batsmen to follow, have shown an aptitude to stick around with a specialist batsman - Jobanputra scored 17 in the first innings and shared a 34-run ninth-wicket stand with Rakesh Dhurv. In any case the current 30-run eighth-wicket partnership between Kotak and Kamlesh Makvana is the highest in the innings so far.

The wicket here at the Moti Bagh Stadium had a covering of live grass and a firm surface but didn't warrant such a meek batting display. Saurashtra, in their second innings, belied the feeling that they couldn't play worse than in the first and never looked like putting up a fight once they lost Jaydev Shah, their best batsman in the first innings, in the second over. Kanaiya Vaghela followed two balls later in similar fashion, edging behind to Amir Khan.

Sagar Jogiyani and Cheteshwar Pujara looked like building a partnership and took the score to 25 before Pujara tickled one down the leg side to give the Tyagi-Amir combine its third success. In the next over Bhuvneshwar Kumar got Jogiyani, who had looked comfortable. That brought together Kotak and Nikhil Rathore and, as another partnership looked like building, Praveen Kumar produced a legcutter to take Rathore's edge. Praveen Gupta followed it up with a good low catch off his own bowling to dismiss Rakesh Dhurv.

Kotak, meanwhile, had seen off the early jittery period and nudged and late-cut his way to 41 by stumps. He waited for the last moment before playing a shot - then too only if necessary - and when he did so it was with soft hands. By the time Kotak took them to beyond the first-innings deficit, they had lost six wickets and one more followed soon after but that brought in Makvana. UP, thinking they were closing in on the win, opted for the extra half hour but the bowlers were perhaps too tired and failed to have any impact. It turned into the most comfortable period of play for Saurashtra, who added 17 in that period.

UP's batting began early in the day, Saurashtra's two overnight wickets lasting 16 minutes to concede a potentially crucial lead of 61. Though UP had a better start to their second innings - making Saurashtra wait 10 overs for the first wicket - they showed their over-reliance on Suresh Raina and Mohammad Kaif. After Rohit Prakash was adjudged lbw, Suresh Raina once again started in a confident manner before letting it away for just 25. He got off with a beautiful cover drive, down on one knee, off Vaghela. In Vaghela's next over, Raina pulled him for a six and pushed him out of attack. That was followed by a straight hit for four. Spin, in the form of Dhurv, was welcomed by dancing down to hit two boundaries in the first over. Then against the run of the play, Raina missed Makvana's first ball - a full toss - and was adjudged lbw.

That triggered the collapse as the spinners bowled a controlled line and length and let the wicket and the batsmen do the rest. Amir Khan was done in by an arm ball from Dhurv that he was late to react to. Ravikant Shukla, who had batted well in the first innings, was caught on the back foot as another arm ball took his edge and made its way safely to Kotak at slip. Kaif got one from Makwana that didn't break, bounced more and took the glove on the way to the 'keeper who, after some juggling, hung on to it. With two balls to go to lunch, Piyush Chawla played a poor shot and turned Jobanputra - brought on only for the last over before lunch - to midwicket.

Five overs after lunch Praveen Kumar, all at sea against Dhurv, was beaten comprehensively and was bowled. Bhuvneshwar Kumar followed his first-innings effort with another sensible innings for close to an hour, but Dhurv's big break was too good for him and bowled him. Rahat Elahi, the specialist batsman brought in to replace Tanmay Srivastava and who came in to bat at No. 9, stayed back to one that kept low and was beaten to give Dhurv his fourth first-class five-wicket haul.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo.