Gujarat, Kerala ahead in qualification race
The possibility of a three-way tie added to a fascinating subplot on an action-packed day
Kerala, led by fifties from Jalaj Saxena and Rohan Prem, finished the second day only five runs behind Haryana's 208 in Lahli. Kerala, who stand a good chance of progressing to the knockouts, have seven wickets in hand.
Haryana managed to add only one run to their overnight total of 207 for 9. The visitors' batsmen then batted out 85 overs in the day to all but wipe Haryana's total. Saxena and Prem added 172 for the second wicket, before the former was bowled by legspinner Amit Mishra on 91. Prem, however, remained unbeaten on 79 at stumps, with Basil Thampi for company.
Table-toppers Gujarat finished the day with a 313-run lead after their bowlers took three early wickets against Jharkhand in Ranchi. Early in the day, Rujul Bhatt helped Gujarat go past 400, with an unbeaten 145.
Gujarat were at 295 for 5 early in the day, after overnight batsman Manpreet Juneja was out for 67, but Bhatt then batted well with the tail. The last five batsman added only 28 runs, but Bhatt took charge in his 224-ball innings that had 22 fours and three sixes. Ashish Kumar (4-118) cleaned up the lower order.
Jharkhand's innings started poorly, with Chintan Gaja taking two early wickets. But opener Nazim Siddiqui's unbeaten 52, together with Ishank Jaggi (27*), who has three centuries so far this season, took the hosts closer to 100 at stumps. Like Kerala, Gujarat must win if they are to qualify into the play-offs in their own terms. Saurashtra, the team that's chasing Gujarat and Kerala, were also, fascinatingly, on course posting 534 in their first innings against Rajasthan in Jaipur. After overnight centurion Avi Barot was out for 130, Sheldon Jackson made 94 following which their lower-order batsmen Jaydev Unadkat (88, who is leading the side, and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (79*) chipped in with fifties to make Rajasthan's bowlers toil for almost 144 overs. Jadeja then returned to take two Rajasthan wickets, as the hosts finished the day on 60 for 2.
Barot could add only two runs to his overnight total, when he was dismissed for 130 in the opening hour. Prerak Mankad and Chirag Jani were soon to go as well, as Saurashtra were at 313 for 6. But then Jackson and Unadkat added 71 for the seventh wicket, after which the former was out six runs short of his century. Unadkat carried on, putting on another 98 for the eighth wicket as Saurashtra score swelled. The two lower-order batsmen together smashed 17 fours and two sixes.
Rajasthan started their innings well, with openers Amitkumar Gautam (26) and Chetan Bist (30*) adding 60 for the first wicket, but Jadeja's double-wicket 28th over - the day's last - pegged the hosts' progress as they finished the day on 60 for 2, still trailing by 474.