Sparkling Pandey kicks off season in style
Karnataka 372 for 5 (Pandey 194*, Dravid 97) v Uttar Pradesh
Manish Pandey kicked off the 2009-10 Ranji Trophy Super League in style with an unbeaten 194 off 238 deliveries, his maiden first-class century, against an Uttar Pradesh comprising RP Singh, Piyush Chawla and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. And it wasn't all fair going in Meerut: he joined Rahul Dravid in the 13th over of the day with Karnataka at 27 for 3. All three medium-pacers - RP, Bhuvneshwar and ICL returnee Shalabh Srivastava - had taken a wicket each by then, including Robin Uthappa's for zero.
That was the last piece of joy for a long time, though, as Dravid and Pandey punished UP with a 273-run fourth-wicket stand, Dravid contributing 97 before getting run out. Both batsmen were helped by some sloppy UP fielding: Pandey let off by the wicketkeeper when he was on 12, and Dravid could have ended on 27 had Ravikant Shukla not missed a sitter in the slips. Bhuvneshwar followed the Dravid wicket with another quick one but at 327 for 5 Pandey took charge again and saw the day through with an unbeaten 45-run stand with B Akhil off just 8.1 overs. One hundred and fourteen of Pandey's runs came in fours and a six. RP and Chawla had a disappointing day, managing just one wicket between them, for 146 runs in 32 overs.
Delhi 300 for 2 (Dhawan 122*, Bhatia 70*, Chabra 65) v Baroda
Shikhar Dhawan's patient unbeaten century in Vadodara took Delhi to a position of strength against an attack missing Irfan Pathan. Dhawan batted through the day and shared two important partnerships with half-centurions Gaurav Chabra and Rajat Bhatia to carry Delhi to 300. This was Dhawan's seventh first-class century, and Chabra's second half-century in his second first-class match.
After their captain Aakash Chopra fell for an uncharacteristic 18-ball 21, Dhawan and Chabra batted sensibly, adding 134 for the second wicket. Murtuja Vahora managed to break the partnership before tea but Bhatia and Dhawan would make sure that would be the last success for Baroda. At stumps, Bhatia looked set for what could be a 10th first-class century.
Bengal 52 for 2 trail Maharashtra 179 (Ansari 52, Bose 5-67, Dinda 3-65) by 127 runs
A sensational opening burst followed by the wicket of the well-set Azhar Ansari gave Ranadeb Bose his 22nd first-class five-for, and gave Bengal an opportunity to push for a first-innings lead against Maharashtra and perhaps an outright victory.
Maharashtra captain Harshad Khadiwale drove Bose for consecutive boundaries in the first two deliveries of the match, but the fast bowler hit back by ripping the heart out of Maharashtra's batting line-up, reducing them to 53 for 4. Ashok Dinda followed on those strikes to put Maharashtra in further trouble, at 110 for 7, but that's when Ansari, making his debut and batting at No. 8, started a comeback along with Kiran Adhav. Left-arm spinner Shibsagar Singh broke that 49-run partnership and Bose came back to dismiss Ansari and complete his five-for.
Bengal lost Deep Dasgupta, making his comeback from the ICL, in the second over. Ansari capped a good day with bowling figures of 7-5-7-1, the wicket being that of Arindam Das who scored 38 of Bengal's 52 runs. Wriddhiman Saha and Manoj Tiwary were in the middle at stumps.
Punjab 242 for 9 (Ravi Inder 104, Agarkar 4-41, Zaheer 3-45) v Mumbai
A defiant Ravi Inder Singh, with his fourth century in just 14 first-class matches, kept defending champions Mumbai, whose attack includes Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar, at bay, although Mumbai would like to believe they have the upper hand having taken nine wickets on the opening day. Things could have been much worse but for Ravi Inder: the next best score was 30 not out by Manpreet Gony.
This was Zaheer's first first-class game since undergoing shoulder surgery in South Africa earlier this year, and his performance was monitored by India coach Gary Kirsten. Though Zaheer bowled within himself as he looked to ease himself back into serious cricket, he and Agarkar reduced Punjab to 133 for 5 before Ravi Inder rallied the tail around. He added 45 with the debutant Gaurav Gambhir for the sixth wicket, 22 for the seventh with Rahul Sharma and 33 for the eighth with Gony. Agarkar, though, had the final say, dismissing Ravi Inder and Harmeet Singh in quick succession, and handing Mumbai the ascendancy.
Railways 242 for 4 (Bangar 111*, Fazal 70) 242 for 4 v Tamil Nadu
Sanjay Bangar, with his 10th first-class century, and Faiz Fazal, who has moved from Vidarbha to Railways, kept Tamil Nadu joyless for a healthy part of the day at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi. After an 80-run second-wicket stand, R Ashwin took two quick wickets to bring Railways down to 139 for 3 but the old firm of Bangar and Yere Goud thwarted the charge there itself.
Goud was his stubborn self, scoring 14 runs off 100 balls in a partnership of 76 runs. Meanwhile Bangar went along fluently, striking at more than 50 runs per 100 balls, and hitting 14 fours and two sixes in his innings. Ashwin was the most impressive of the bowlers, his captain persisted with him for a marathon 31-over spell. L Balaji stayed wicketless for 16 overs.
Gujarat 237 for 7 (Parthiv 83, Dhiraj Singh 4-88) v Orissa
Parthiv Patel rescued Gujarat from a precarious 89 for 4 with an attacking 83 but Gujarat went on to lose the initiative after Parthiv's wicket on a day that momentum shifted this way and that. Debasis Mohanty and Dhiraj Singh gave Orissa a perfect start before Parthiv counterattacked.
Along with Rujul Bhatt, Parthiv added 89 for the fifth wicket. Parthiv attacked and Bhatt consolidated as the game threatened to slip out of Orissa's hands. But in the final session, Dhiraj removed both the batsmen within 16 runs of each other. A run-out followed, and Gujarat were struggling at 203 for 7. To provide a final twist to the day, Ashraf Makda swung his bat merrily to end up on an unbeaten 31 off 23 balls, including four sixes.
Hyderabad 237 for 6 (Abhinav 70*, Malik 2-58) v Himachal Pradesh
An unbeaten 70 from wicketkeeper Abhinav Kumar lifted Hyderabad from 74 for 4 to a respectable score by the end of the first day in Ahmedabad. Swing bowlers Vikramjeet Malik and Ashok Thakur got Himachal off to a usual good start. Himachal were also helped by a run-out early on. Only T Suman managed to impress in the top order, falling short of fifty by five runs.
Abhinav and Arjun Yadav (captaining in place of VVS Laxman, who was ruled out with a side strain), though, wrested the momentum with a 47-run fifth-wicket stand. But it was the partnership between Abhinav and Syed Quadri that truly brought Hyderabad back into the contest. They added 77 for the sixth wicket, Quadri missing the half-century by three runs. Another stubborn stand for the seventh wicket followed: Abhinav and MP Arjun were yet to be separated and they added 39 runs in 21.4 overs.
Hyderabad were welcoming several ICL players back into the fold, including highly rated batsman Ambati Rayudu. He was playing his first four-day game in nearly three years, but it wasn't a memorable comeback: he was run-out by a direct hit from Ashok Thakur at mid-on for a nine-ball 1.