Chasing a target of 223 for an outright win, Railways were 91/4 at close of play on the fourth day of the Ranji Trophy final played at the Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation Ground, Baroda on Sunday.
Baroda started the day at their overnight score of 183/2. Satyajit Parab who was just two runs away from his century, got to the landmark without much fuss. Parab and Jacob Martin showed scant respect for the railways bowling as they went about scoring runs freely.
The two batsmen put together a partnership of 117 runs for the third wicket. Parab was the third batsman to be dismissed, stumped by Abhay Sharma off the bowling of Murali Kartik. He made 141 runs off 265 balls with the help of 14 boundaries. It was a remarkable innings from Parab, given the fact that he was given out caught behind off the very first ball of the match.
Tushar Arothe (21) paid the price for his flamboyance as he holed out to Bangar at long off , TP Singh claiming the wicket. Abhay Sharma took four catches behind the wicket as Baroda kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Zaheer Khan (19) helped Martin add 28 runs for the ninth wicket. Baroda were in search of valuable runs and Martin was closing on to his hundred.
The injured Rakesh Patel joined his skipper in the middle and was gifted a shocker of a decision, given out caught at silly point. There was enough daylight between the bat and ball to suggest that the decision was incorrect. Martin was stranded unbeaten on 87 (8 fours) and Baroda were all out for 373. TP Singh (4/87) and Sanjay Bangar (3/94) shared the bowling honours.
Railways were set a reasonable target of 223 and with Rakesh Patel not taking the field because of an injury, Baroda had to bank on their international player Zaheer Khan. Railways got off to a good start as Amit Pagnis and Sanjay Bangar kept the medium pacers at bay.
For Baroda there was mixed emotions as the news trickled in about the selection of the national probables. Nayan Mongia was dropped, even ignoring his 181 & 53 against Orissa in the Ranji semi-finals. The good news was that of the selection of Rakesh Patel who was been sorely missed in the middle. Harvinder Singh, the Railways medium pacer too found a place in the Indian probables.
The introduction of spin from both ends on a track that is offering a lot of turn and bounce to the slower bowlers did change the course. Pagnis (31) gave a simple return catch to Ajit Bhoite. In the following over Bangar (7) went back to an arm ball from Valmik Buch to be bowled.
TP Singh (5) who played well in the first innings failed to impress as he went for a big shot and skied an easy catch to Zaheer Khan off the bowling of Bhoite. Skipper Abhay Sharma (17) played positively, striking the ball cleanly, but was found wanting as he edged a ball from Buch, CC Williams standing at gully took a one-handed catch, diving low to his left.
There were a couple of catches dropped towards the end of the day which might cost Baroda dearly if Railways were to knock off the 132 runs tomorrow. Yerre Goud (17*) and Sudhir Wankhede (11*) are at the crease. With the pitch taking turn, Buch and Bhoite could make life difficult for the Railways with the noisy close-in fielders going up in appeal for any possible dismissal. The match could go either way tomorrow and the team who would deal with the pressure better will emerge as the Ranji Trophy champions.