Railways playing in their second Ranji Trophy final took the honours on the first day against the hosts Baroda at the Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation Ground, Baroda, on Thursday. At close of play they were 91/1 after bowling out Baroda for a low score of 243.
Jacob Martin won the toss for Baroda and elected to bat first. On a pitch that had a greenish look to it, Martin was left with no choice but to rely on his frontline batsmen to deliver the goods. Railways took the opportunity with both hands as Harvinder Singh had SS Parab caught behind by Abhay Sharma off the first ball of the match.
An inspired spell by the opening bowlers Harvinder Singh and Sanjay Bangar saw Nayan Mongia (4) and Martin (0) making their way back to the pavilion, after having failed to apply themselves to the task. Baroda were reduced to 30/3 in the 11th over.
CC Williams and TB Arothe rose to the occasion and put together 77 runs for the fourth wicket. Arothe was more adventurous in his stay in the middle, cracking seven boundaries and a six to score 52 valuable runs. Arothe was severe on Murali Kartik smashing him for sixes and fours in gay abandon. He was brilliantly caught by a diving Khanolkar off Harvinder Singh.
In the meanwhile the Railways skipper and wicket keeper Abhay Sharma was felled by a sharp bouncing delivery from Kartik that beat the batsman all ends up. Sharma had to go off the field to get urgent medical attention as he had a bad cut on his face. Sharma was brave enough to come back to the field to lead his men as SV Wankhede kept the gloves on, standing behind the stumps.
Off spinner Kulamani Parida struck a double blow in the 44th over. He sent back Williams who had made 65 patient runs with the help of seven strokes past the ropes. A couple of balls later he trapped a struggling HR Jadhav (12) in front of the wicket. Baroda's hopes of reaching 200 looked remote at that stage after having lost 6 wickets for just 150 runs.
AP Bhoite and RB Patel (16) added 69 precious runs for the seventh wicket. Patel was caught by Kartik at second slip off Bangar. Bhoite's pyrotechnics provided the home crowd with something to cheer about. He struck two sixes and eight boundaries in making 57 runs.
Baroda's innings folded for 243 runs off just 64.1 overs, a dismal batting performance after electing to bat first. Kartik was smashed all around the park as his 12 overs cost his team 70 runs including 12 no-balls. Harvinder Singh (4/59) and Bangar (3/55) shared the bowling honours.
Railways had their task cut out to score 244 runs and gain the vital first innings lead. Amit Pagnis (7) was bowled by Rakesh Patel after a brief stay in the middle. Pagnis kept walking all over his crease getting beaten more often than putting bat on ball. Shuffling too much to the off side and finding himself in a knot in many an occasion, his misery was put out by Patel, sending the leg stump for a cartwheel.
That was the only success Baroda could show after the first day's play. Zaheer Khan, the India international, failed to make an impression, bowling way too short and outside the off stump. The young Irfan Pathan too failed miserably bowling too short. Patel was the only bowler who looked good enough as he beat the bat of SS Bangar (21) and TP Singh (60) repeatedly.
The two batsmen have added 74 runs for the unfinished second wicket partnership. Singh's knock has been a revelation of sorts as he went about striking the ball with such conviction. He has so far faced just 58 balls, striking nine boundaries and two sixes. Baroda's hopes rest on their fast bowlers, who will have to produce a dream spell in the morning session tomorrow.