Railways 355 and 362 for 8 (Yadav 97, Bangar 77, Goud 96*) lead Punjab 309 by 408 runs
With an indomitable display of attritional batting, Railways all but wrapped up their second Ranji Trophy title as Punjab were ground out of the contest on a corpse-like pitch. Sanjay Bangar's austere innings set the tone, before Yere Goud and the tail blocked their way to an impregnable position.
Goud entered at a time when Punjab were threatening yet another of their umpteen fightbacks. Raja Ali, who top-scored in the first innings, had nicked one to the wicketkeeper and Railways were 251 runs ahead with two off-colour batsmen and the tail to follow. Teams have consistently chased 300-plus totals this season and on a pitch devoid of all life Punjab were still clinging on. Goud's six matches this season had produced just 145 runs (avg 24.16) and he was soon joined by Tejinder Pal Singh, who had averaged 28.
In the next four hours, though, Goud's slumber-inducing doggedness brought the Railways dressing-room back to life. Every assured leave was followed by raucous cheers and with a series of prods, pushes and composed pad-play, he nibbled away at time, and inched Railways towards the title. Goud's former team-mate at Karnataka, Rahul Dravid, might have applauded every step and after tea he even unfurled some expansive cover-drives, exaggerated follow-through and all. Right at the end of the day, a pendulum-smooth swing over long-off took him from 90 to 96, and Punjab were experiencing death by torture - slow, hopeless and inevitable.
What Goud can do, Bangar can do better. In Bangar's world the cricket field is a battleground, opponents will be blunted, trench warfare will rule. Why glide when you can struggle? And he turns into a blur if someone like Jai Prakash Yadav is bubbling at the other end. He was reprieved twice - both times by Sandeep Sawal at first slip - but with an emotionless method he consolidated a dominant position.
Unlike the other two, though, Yadav prefers a rapid extermination. He continued his violent methods, including effortless swipes for six, and sped past the 70s and 80s. His aggressive intentions probably deprived him of his first hundred of the season, getting a top edge while trying to cut fiercely, as he was dismissed for 97 off VRV Singh. But it was an innings that turned the game within the space of a few overs, with an explosive effort that put an end to all thoughts of fightbacks.
Bangar and Goud then put an end to the contest.
How they were out
JP Yadav c Dharmani b VRV Singh 97 (179 for 3) Attempted to cut at one that was short and wide but nicked it straight to the wicketkeeper.
Bangar b Rajesh Sharma 77 (205 for 4) Pushed at one that turned sharply and played on.
Ali c Dharmani b Gagandeep 14 (205 for 5) Wafted outside off.
Tejinder Pal Singh lbw Rajesh Sharma 12 (236 for 6) Beaten by a good-length ball that spun sharply and struck in front.
Wankhede c Dharmani b Sodhi 24 (302 for 7) Edged trying to drive through the covers.
Parida lbw b Kakkar 6 (333 for 8) Missed a faster ball and was rapped on the pads.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Cricinfo.