Solanki and Yusuf lift Baroda to 209-run lead
Baroda 199 and 281 for 6 (Solanki 96, Yusuf 86*) lead Delhi 271 (Manhas 97, Vohra 4-39) by 209 runs
Rakesh Solanki kept Baroda in the run at the end of the third day of their Ranji semi-final against Delhi in Indore. Solanki anchored the innings with a fine 96 but it was Yusuf Pathan who helped Baroda seize the initiative with an unbeaten 61-ball 86. Delhi, though, removed Solanki in the last over of the day to ensure that they remained in the hunt.
Baroda had struggled in the first session, losing three wickets but Solanki featured in two partnerships that swung the momentum. He was involved in a 79-run stand with Shatrunjay Gaekwad before adding a further 118 runs with Yusuf, who turned on the heat in the last session.
Yusuf had walked in to face the second ball of the final session and immediately chose to counterattack. He drove, cut, lofted and swept merrily in an entertaining innings that had Delhi bowlers in complete disarray. Spin or seam made no difference as he plonked the front foot forward and knived through the line. He started off by driving the legspinner Chetanya Nanda to the straight boundary before flashing Amit Bhandari twice in succession to the cover boundary. Nanda went around the wicket and aimed at the rough but Yusuf continued to attack, hitting two towering sixes over long-on and sweeping a couple to the boundary. The new ball too didn't make any impact on him as he repeatedly drove Sumit Narwal and Parvinder Awana.
But the wicket of Solanki kept Delhi in the game. It was a marginal decision as Solanki played across to a full delivery from Rajat Bhatia and it appeared to be heading down leg side. By then, though, Solanki had played a stellar part in reviving the fortunes of Baroda.
He started off uncertainly, playing and missing outside off, but hit a few punchy drives to get going. As the day wore on, he got increasingly confident and the nervous pokes were replaced by confident drives and cuts. Whenever the bowlers pitched short, he pulled them for boundaries. Solanki sealed one end during the final session of the day while Yusuf went berserk to charge Baroda towards a sizeable lead. Though Solanki was given a reprieve, on 93, when he cut to gully where Aditya Jain spilled a straightforward chance but he couldn't capitalise.
But it was Gaekwad who led the repair job in the second session with an assured knock of 46. He defended compactly and showed impeccable timing while attacking. The highlight of the knock was his successive boundaries of Amit Bhandari. The bowler had hit the full length from around the wicket - a line that had proved very profitable for him on the first day - but Gaekwad stretched well forward to drive him to straight boundary before producing the shot of the day - a gorgeous cover drive. Baroda had begun to break free.
Solanki too found his stride and 78 runs came in the second session before Gaekwad fell to a soft dismissal. He closed his bat a touch early to a short-of-length delivery from Awana, only to see the leading edge carry back to the bowler.
The first session had seen Baroda repeat the mistakes of the first day. The bat was pushed away from the body, the feet didn't come in line and the reading of line left a lot to be desired. Awana kept the ball in the right areas to lure the batsmen to their demise. Connor Williams drove away from the body, Satyajit Parab dragged on a loose drive to the stumps and Azharuddin Bilakhia shouldered arms to a length delivery around off stump only to lose the off stump. Baroda were still trailing by 16 runs at that point but Solanki and Gaekwad started the fightback.
The next setback for Baroda came in the first ball of the final session. Nanda got one to skid on straight and had Pinal Shah playing all around it. Nanda should have had the new batsman Yusuf early with another slider but the umpire turned down a confident shout for lbw. By the end of the day, Baroda had stretched the lead to over 200 but Delhi struck in the end to leave the game tantalisingly poised.