Railways have taken the vital first innings lead and consolidated their position thanks to an unbeaten 72 run partnership for the ninth wicket between Murali Kartik (47*) and Kulamani Parida (24*) to be on 318/8 at the end of the second day in the Ranji Trophy final played against Baroda at the Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation Ground, Baroda, on Friday.
Railways have gone ahead by 75 runs and still have two first innings wicket intact. Baroda fought hard to reduce Railways to 246/8 and were looking at a possibility of batting again and scoring heavily to set a fourth innings target. The pitch is taking a lot of turn and bounce and could well make a lot of difference on day four and five. As of now, it has been the faster men who have made the difference on a pitch which still has something in it for the quickies.
Railways lost the wicket of TP Singh, given out lbw off the bowling of AP Bhoite. Singh , who was unbeaten on 60 overnight, could only add seven more runs to his personal score. Sanjay Bangar and Yerre Gowda put together a valuable partnership of 88 runs for the third wicket in 30 overs. Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan were too wayward in the first half of the day.
Baroda claimed six Railways wickets for just 50 runs. Bangar (62) was caught by HR Jadhav off the bowling of Zaheer Khan. He faced 196 balls striking six boundaries and two sixes. Skipper Abhay Sharma (8), Shreyas Khanolkar (4) and S Sahu (0) fell to the pressure applied by the Baroda team. Gowda who played yet another patient knock, made 65 runs off 143 balls with the help of nine boundaries. He was brilliantly caught by Jacob martin at first slip off the last ball before the Tea-break bowled by left-arm spinner Valmik Buch.
Soon after the Tea interval, Zaheer Khan trapped Sudhir Wankhede (14) in front of the wicket. Railways at that stage were ahead by just three runs with respect to the Baroda's first innings score of 243 all out. Rakesh Patel limped off the ground with a leg injury, leaving Zaheer Khan and Pathan to do all the fast bowling. Murali Kartik and Parida were all at sea against some purposeful bowling, but held on to do their job. Baroda bowler's failed to keep a good line and length and were subsequently punished by the tailenders. Kartik who shuffles around in his crease and could have been dismissed as he kept playing and missing at balls outside the off stump. He has struck four strokes past the ropes so far in his unbeaten innings. Parida too grew in confidence as he stayed for more time in the middle. It would only be appropriate to blame the Baroda bowlers than give credit to the Railways tailenders.