With one day of the league matches left, we finally know the teams that will be relegated: Bengal, for the first time since the introduction of the relegation system, and Himachal Pradesh, who were promoted last year.
Delhi, Saurashtra and Uttar Pradesh seem likely to join Baroda in the semi-finals, though things may yet turn out otherwise. Saurashtra have frustrated Mumbai long enough to almost ensure the one point they need to make it to the semi-finals. Delhi are 95 short of an outright win, which will take them clear of Mumbai who can at best draw against Saurashtra. UP need eight Hyderabad wickets on the final day to end as Group B leaders. If they can get only three points from the match, they will be tied with Andhra at 17 points, but with a better quotient.
Delhi 338 and 10 for 0 (Gambhir 6*, Chopra 2*) need another 95 runs to beat Tamil Nadu 268 and 174 (Ramkumar 57, Nanda 5-47)
Delhi shot out Tamil Nadu for 174 to lay the foundation of what should be an easy win to seal a semi-final place and possibly also take them to the top of Group A. Chetanya Nanda took his third five-wicket haul to hasten the end for Tamil Nadu after Pradeep Sangwan and Rajat Bhatia had removed the openers. It was a quick half-century from No. 8 R Ramkumar that took Tamil Nadu beyond 100 as Ramkumar and H Gopinath, from 61 for 6, added 82 for the seventh wicket.
Delhi were 10 for 0 at stumps, chasing 105.
Hyderabad 193 and 55 for 2 (Manohar 28*, Shoaib 0*) need another 383 to beat Uttar Pradesh 336 and 294 for 3 dec (Kaif 100*, Ravikant Shukla 70)
Mohammad Kaif's unbeaten century and three other half-centuries helped Uttar Pradesh set Hyderabad an improbable target and UP took two wickets before stumps, leaving Hyderabad needing another 383 on the final day. UP started the day at 28 for 0 and the opening stand between the Srivastavas - Tanmay and Rohit Prakash - continued for another 72 runs. After both of them got out for half-centuries, Kaif and Ravikant Shukla took over, scoring at a strike-rate of over 60 to enable UP declare 16 overs before stumps. This was Kaif's second century of the season, making him UP's leading run-getter so far.
When Hyderabad came out to bat, Praveen Kumar struck in the third over with Abhinav Kumar's wicket and in the last over Praveen Gupta accounted for Anoop Pai.
Andhra 121 and 190 (Prasad 54, Bose 7-74) beat Bengal 98 and 112 (Gnaneshwara Rao 5-16, Vijay Kumar 5-56) by 101 runs
With their fourth loss in six matches which yielded only eight points, Bengal have been relegated to the Plate League for the 2008-09 season. Andhra's P Vijay Kumar and Y Gnaneshwara Rao took five wickets each to ensure a sixth successive batting failure for Bengal. Chasing 214 for a win that would have given them some chance of avoiding relegation, Bengal were shot out for 112, captain Laxmi Shukla being the top scorer with 39. Manoj Tiwary was the only other batsman to reach double figures; he scored 35.
Resuming the day at 147 for 6, with a lead of 170, Andhra added 43 more, thanks to MSK Prasad who scored 54. Ranadeb Bose finished with 7 for 74.
Rajasthan 218 and 185 for 1 (Saxena 101*, Bishnoi 63*) beat Himachal Pradesh 280 and 122 (Mathur 7-49, Gehlot 2-44) by 9 wickets
Rajasthan turned the tables on Himachal Pradesh as they bowled them out for 122 in the second innings, knocked off the 185-run target easily, and won the relegation face-off even after having conceded a 62-run first-innings lead. Sumit Mathur was the chief destructor for Rajasthan as he took 7 for 49 to wreck the Himachal innings after they were 56 for 0 at one stage. With a healthy opening stand, and a first-innings lead already in the bag, Himachal looked on their way to avoid relegation, but they lost seven wickets for 31 runs to be reduced to 87 for 7 in a characteristic collapse. The last three wickets showed some resistance, but could take them to 122 only.
Rajasthan then batted with intent, and riding on Vineet Saxena's unbeaten century and Rajesh Bishnoi's unbeaten 63, they chased the target down in 41.5 overs.
Maharashtra 276 and 18 for 3 (Vinay Kumar 3-3) need another 251 runs to avoid an innings defeat against Karnataka 545 for 9 dec Chipli 135*, Goud 122)
After Bharat Chipli and Yere Goud piled the runs on for Karnataka, R Vinay Kumar struck with a hat-trick to set up a depressing end to the season for Maharashtra after they led the Group A halfway into the Ranji Trophy. At the end of the third day, Maharashtra required 251 runs to make Karnataka bat again, with seven wickets in hand.
Vinay Kumar's hat-trick was the fourth in the last three rounds of Ranji Trophy and second against Maharashtra after Delhi medium-pacer Parvinder Awana had demolished Maharashtra with one in the fifth round.
Earlier Chipli and Goud feasted on an inexperienced attack to score centuries and take the lead to 269 before they declared with seven overs to go in the day. Goud scored 122, while Chipli stayed unbeaten on 135. Thilak Naidu chipped in with a a half-century.
Mumbai 187 for 2 (Muzumdar 86*, Rahane 83*) v Saurashtra 484 (Kotak 168*, Mangela 5-105)
A solid batting display by Amol Muzumdar and Ajinkya Rahane might not be enough to take them to the semi-finals as Mumbai ended the day 297 behind Saurashtra's 484, with eight wickets in hand. Even if they manage to take a first-innings lead, they will have to hope Delhi don't beat Tamil Nadu outright, which seems highly likely.
To begin the day, Mumbai were frustrated by Shitanshu Kotak furthermore, as they took 11.2 overs to take the last Saurashtra wicket, No. 11 Sandip Maniar who partnered Kotak for 73 mintues out of his 796-minute stay at the wicket.
Ajinkya Rahane and Amol Muzumdar scored unbeaten eighties, but with a run-rate of 2.46 per over to score 187 for 2 they were always operating against the clock.
Baroda 255 and 120 for 3 (Gaekwad 58*) lead Orissa 294 (Das 114, Pawar 6-66) by 81 runs
Baroda took the last seven Orissa wickets for 81 runs, but could not prevent them from taking a first-innings lead. Three points from this game would have ensure Baroda the top position in Group B. In the second innings, Baroda had scored 120 for 3 by stumps, sending the game down the draw path unless there is a dramatic collapse on the final day.
Rajesh Pawar took five of the Orissa wickets to fall today to finish his 10th five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.
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