Uttar Pradesh's road to the final
Eyeing their second Ranji Trophy title, Uttar Pradesh take on a powerful Mumbai at Hyderabad. This is their third final in four years and Mohammad Kaif, the captain, Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar will have to play out of their skins to lift the title.
Round 1, v Andhra in Meerut
Andhra 349 and 130 for 2 (Watekar 65) drew with Uttar Pradesh 412 (Srivatasva 154, Kaif 144, Suresh 5 for 80)
Centuries from Mohammad Kaif and Tanmay Srivastava fetched UP three points for the earning the first-innings lead. Srivastava and Kaif added 285 at nearly three runs an over. Srivastava hit 16 boundaries in his 154, while Kaif managed two more in his 144. For Andhra, LNP Reddy missed a century but AG Pradeep compiled his first first-class century. Andhra were comfortably placed at 222 for 4 but Praveen Kumar struck in quick succession to reduce them to 238 for 6. However, a 107-run stand between M Suresh (46) and Pradeep made sure they weren't bowled out cheaply. Bhuvneshwar Kumar then took three wickets in the space of four runs to hasten the end before Kaif and Srivastava ensured UP started their campaign well.
Round 2, v Baroda in Vadodara
Baroda 235 (Solanki 71, Praveen 5-70) and 314 (Solanki 71, Parab 67, Chawla 4-122) drew with Uttar Pradesh 286 (Srivastava 79, Kaif 51, Praveen 50, IK Pathan 6-85) and 151 for 6 (Kaif 45*, Veragi 3-58)
In a closely fought game UP hung on to the vital first-innings lead courtesy a gritty partnership between Kaif and Amir Khan. Chasing 264, UP had slipped to 97 for 6 on the final day but Kaif, batting low at No. 7, and wicketkeeper Khan played out 30.5 overs to ensure a draw. Kaif chipped in in the first innings as well to ensure they snatched the lead. Down to 9 for 3 in reply to Baroda's 235, Uttar Pradesh recovered despite Irfan Pathan's 5 for 71. Half-centuries from Srivastava and Kaif and a fine rear-guard effort from Praveen Kumar enabled UP to cross Baroda.
Round 3, v Tamil Nadu in Ghaziabad
Tamil Nadu 507 (Dinesh Karthik 213, Badrinath 123, Gupta 4-123) beat Uttar Pradesh 150 (Balaji 4-38, Amarnath 4-53) and 119 (Balaji 5-42, Ganapathy 4-21) by an innings and 238 runs
L Balaji celebrated his return to first-class cricket with a five-wicket haul to help Tamil Nadu crush Uttar Pradesh by an innings and 238 runs. Dinesh Karthik made his highest first-class score to push Tamil Nadu past 500 before Balaji and C Ganapathy combined to bundle out UP for 119. Faced with a daunting deficit of 357, UP began cautiously as their openers added 36 in 17 overs. Ganapathy broke through for Tamil Nadu, sending back Shivakant Shukla to trigger the collapse. Only four players managed double figures and the resistance was feeble as Balaji and Ganapathy pegged away at the wickets, finishing the formalities in just 43 overs, with a day to spare.
Round 4, v Maharashtra in Kanpur
Uttar Pradesh 315 (Shivakant Shukla 131, Parvinder 68, Fallah 5-93) and 140 for 2 (Srivastava 65*, Parvinder 60) beat Maharashtra 221 (Jadhav 93*, Khadiwale 56) and 230 (Jadhav 65, Shilamkar 56) by eight wickets
This eight-wicket victory was Uttar Pradesh's first outright win of the season, and moved them up to No. 3 in Group B. Shivkant Shukla hit 131 and added 137 runs with Parvinder Singh to charge UP to a lead before Piyush Chawla (3 for 42) and slow left-armer Praveen Gupta (3 for 55) bowled out Maharashtra for 221 in the second innings. Shukla fell for 16 in UP's chase, but Srivastava and Parvinder scored at a fair clip to clinch the victory in 36.5 overs.
Round 5, v Railways in Delhi
Uttar Pradesh 346 (P Kumar 98, Raina 66, Kartik 3-60, Karan 3-73, Singh 3-86) and 150 for 6 dec (Srivastava 62, Parida 2-7) drew with Railways 200 (Goud 78*, Chawla 5-33, RP Singh 3-81) and 215 for 8 (Rawat 80, Bangar 70*, B Kumar 5-35)
A determined Sanjay Bangar and Mahesh Rawat, playing with viral fever, helped Railways hang on for a tense draw, after Uttar Pradesh had reduced them to 33 for 6, then 77 for 7. UP declared 5.5 overs into the final day, and 33.4 overs and seven wickets later were in sight of a big win. But Bangar and Rawat frustrated them for close to two-and-a-half hours, before Bangar and Anureet Singh batted out 13.2 overs to keep the visitors at bay. Yere Gowd had done the same in the first innings with a stodgy unbeaten 78 to help Railways avoid the follow-on after Chawla took a five-for. UP were left to rue their slow batting in their second innings when they added only 150 runs in 55.3 overs.
Round 6, v Karnataka in Bangalore
Karnataka 511 (Akhil 135, Uthappa 65, Raghu 64, Chawla 3-141) drew with Uttar Pradesh 567 (Srivastava 159, Kaif 112, Chawla 96, Aiyappa 3-108)
While all about him were losing their heads, and their wickets, Piyush Chawla kept his, to score a crucial 96 and take Uttar Pradesh a step closer to the quarter-finals. Coming in just before lunch, with UP still 143 short of Karnataka's 511, he strung together a partnership with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, then saw two wickets fall to let Karnataka back in. UP were 55 behind when No. 10 Amir Khan came out but the two batted sensibly for the much-needed three points in this, their last league game. Meanwhile, Maharashtra denied Railways, who needed to win with a bonus point to get ahead of UP, an outright win and paved the way for UP to enter the final eight.
Quarter-final v Gujarat in Vadodara
Uttar Pradesh 305 (Raina 93, Parvinder 64) and 375 (Praveen Gupta 74, Srivastava 67, Amir 56, Parmar 5-113) drew with Gujarat 117 (Praveen Kumar 5-29) and 106 for 3 (Modi 57) UP go through on their first-innings lead
This quarter-final ended in a draw and UP sauntered to the semi-final on the first-innings lead. Gujarat squandered their first-day advantage, being bowled out for 117 after restricting UP to 305. Praveen Kumar took five wickets, and was well supported by fellow medium-pacers Imtiyaz Ahmed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who shared the remaining wickets between them, to help UP gain a massive 188-run lead. UP were in no hurry on the third day, plodding along at 2.32 runs an over to shut Gujarat out of the match. Gujarat had about two sessions to bat on the final and their batsmen crawled to 106 before the match was called off.
Semi-final v Tamil Nadu in Nagpur
Tamil Nadu 445 (Mukund 100, Karthik 72, Vijay 69, Ganapathy 67*, Badrinath 65) drew with Uttar Pradesh 447 for 8 dec (Shukla 178*, Parvinder 138, Balaji 5-114)
Uttar Pradesh progress to the final by virtue of first-innings lead
A monumental effort from Shivakant Shukla, the fourth-longest innings in first-class cricket, took Uttar Pradesh through to their third final in four years. Both teams fought hard till the end for the vital first-innings lead. UP were the favourites to knock off the required 193 runs at the start of the final day, but a spirited L Balaji kept TN in the hunt. However, Shukla continued unflustered, playing with intense determination to steer his team into the lead with only two wickets in hand.