With the penultimate round of the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 drawing to a close on Wednesday, the race for the knockout spots was still tight, especially in the combined Groups A & B. Meanwhile, Group C saw Rajasthan seal their spot, and a dramatic draw in Jamshedpur left Jharkhand's chances hanging by a thread.
Bengal eliminate Delhi
Bengal knocked Delhi out of the running for quarterfinal spot with a stirring fourth-innings chase led by Abhimanyu Easwaran's 183 not out. Set 322 to win, Easwaran hit the winning boundary that took Bengal to 323 for 3, giving them six points and keeping their tournament alive.
Delhi looked like they had the upper hand when they made 301 in their second innings. Bengal had conceded a narrow first-innings lead, so they had to go for victory, and they did that in style, taking only 70.2 overs in the chase. This was 23-year-old Easwaran's second 180-plus score this season, having hit a career-best 186 against Hyderabad earlier in the season.
Thrilling draw stymies Jharkhand
Jharkhand had been set 153 to win against Tripura in one session. They came out swinging, but time ran out with the team 144 for 7 in 21.5 overs, at which point the teams shook hands. The result was a tough one for Jharkhand, for whom qualification has become a very tough race. They had entered this match on 30 points, and a win would have taken them to 36, just two shy of Uttar Pradesh's 38. That would have left both teams very much in the fray heading into the final round, behind Rajasthan who have zoomed to 44 points and sealed one of the two qualification spots. But now, Jharkhand have 33 points, and to qualify, will need to win their last match against Jammu & Kashmir outright. At the same time, they'll have to hope that Uttar Pradesh lose their last match, against Assam, to remain on 38. Or, if Jharkhand can manage a bonus-point win, they'll have more than Uttar Pradesh even if the latter don't lose, but end up conceding the first-innings lead in a draw.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Jharkhand were left disappointed with Tripura's tactics in this match, with the visiting side slowing the game to a dawdle and thus denying Jharkhand a shot at victory. Tripura had resisted well in their second innings to stretch their score to 308, batting out the first two sessions. Tea was taken with the last Tripura wicket falling, which left Jharkhand an extended final session to chase down the target. However, despite the umpires extending play, Tripura bowled only 21.5 overs in close to two and a half hours, a time-span in which at least 35 overs would have been bowled in the normal course of events.
Tight race in A&B
Those who are out of running for a quarterfinal spot are: Hyderabad, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Andhra, Maharashtra, Railways and Chhattisgarh. That still leaves a whopping 10 teams who have a chance, with only one round remaining.
Of the ten, Gujarat's race is run. They have 26 points and have played their full quota of games. Presently third on the table, they need results to go their way to keep them in the top five, and can only watch from the outside.
Defending champions Vidarbha are best placed, at the top of the table with 28 points. But if they lose against Saurashtra in their last round, they could actually not end up in the top five - the table is so tight. Here is how that could happen: Karnataka beat Baroda, Saurashtra beat Vidarbha, Madhya Pradesh beat Andhra, Himachal Pradesh beat Kerala, and Bengal beat Punjab by a bonus point. All of the winning teams in this scenario would have more than Vidarbha's 28 points.
Still, Vidarbha are masters of their fate at least, and even a draw while conceding the first-innings lead should be enough for them to secure a top-five spot. Among the other teams in the fray, all of Karnataka (27), Gujarat (26), Saurashtra (26), Madhya Pradesh (24), Himachal Pradesh (22), Bengal (22), Kerala (20), Baroda (20) and Punjab (20) could make it, if things fall in place for them.
Plate Group race
Uttarakhand didn't have a match in this round, but they had built up such a lead that they are still on top of the table with 37 points. If they win their last game, against bottom-placed Mizoram at home in Dehradun, they will be through regardless. The only other teams who have a theoretical chance of going through - provided Uttarakhand don't win - are Bihar and Puducherry.
Bihar have 34 points, and will play against Manipur, while Puducherry have 32 points and will face Nagaland. For Bihar to go through, they will realistically need to win, ideally with a bonus point, and hope Uttarakhand only manage a first-innings lead at most. For Puducherry to go through, they need three things to happen - for them to win outright, for Uttarakhand to lose outright, and for Bihar to get at most a first-innings lead.
Round 8 - Brief Scores
Group A & B
Bengal 220 (Sudip Chatterjee 56, Subodh Bhati 3-28, Khejroliya 3-87) & 323/3 (Raman 52, Easwaran 183*, Majumdar 69*) beat Delhi 240 (Jonty Sidhu 85, Dinda 4-62) & 301 (Himmat Singh 51, Subodh Bhati 62, Dinda 5-88) beat by 7 wickets in Kolkata.
Bengal 6 points Delhi 0 points
Andhra 502/7d (Gnaneshwar 65, Bhui 129, Bharat 178*, Mehdi Hassan 3-127) drew with Hyderabad 271 (Tanmay Agarwal 44, Akshath Reddy 57, Himalay Agarwal 59, KV Sasikanth 5-64, Prithvi Raj 3-72) & 251/5 (Akshath Reddy 65, Himalay Agarwal 60*) in Vizianagaram.
Andhra 3 points, Hyderabad 1 point
Madhya Pradesh 265 (Patidar 47, Shubham Sharma 54, Jaiswal 4-56, Rishi Dhawan 3-54) & 193 (Patidar 54, Gurvinder Singh 6-63) beat Himachal Pradesh 127 (Raghav Dhawan 37, Kumar Kartikeya 6-28) & 191 (Jaiswal 44, Kumar Kartikeya 3-58) by 140 runs in Indore.
Madhya Pradesh 6 points, Himachal Pradesh 0 points
Gujarat 545/8d (Kathan Patel 107, Chintan Gaja 53, Panchal 141, Juneja 87, Chawla 50*, Sanklecha 3-80, Khurana 3-98) beat Maharashtra 230 (Gaikwad 70, Tripathi 62, Chintan Gaja 5-57, Chawla 3-39) & 185 (Naushad Shaikh 40, Sanklecha 40*, Chintan Gaja 3-47, Chawla 3-18) by an innings and 130 runs in Pune.
Gujarat 7 points, Maharashtra 0 points
Punjab 217 (Jiwanjot 69, Mandeep 89, Warrier 5-83) & 131/0 (Jiwanjot 48*, Gill 69*) beat Kerala 121 (Vishnu Vinod 35, Siddarth Kaul 6-55) & 223 (Azharuddeen 112, Markande 4-56) by 10 wickets in Mohali.
Punjab 7 points, Kerala 0 points
Karnataka 418 (Nischal 107, Siddharth 105, Vinay 90*, Pankaj Rao 7-82) & 219/7d (Pandey 102*, Pankaj Rao 4-67) beat Chhattisgarh 283 (Harpreet Singh 120, Mithun 4-64, Ronit More 5-48) & 156 (Avnish Dhaliwal 61, Ronit More 4-35, Shreyas Gopal 4-44) by 198 runs in Alur.
Karnataka 6 points, Chhattisgarh 0 points
Vidarbha 511 (Taide 95, Jaffer 178, Ganesh Satish 90, Mohit Kale 68, Dhrumil Matkar 5-141) beat Mumbai 252 (Bista 64, Ranjane 52, Dhrumil Matkar 62*, Sarwate 3-86, Wakhare 5-85) & 114 (Dhrumil Matkar 36, Sarwate 6-48) by an innings and 145 runs in Nagpur.
Vidarbha 7 points, Mumbai 0 points
Baroda 313 (Krunal 160, Mitesh Patel 61, Mishra 5-76, Avinash Yadav 3-52) & 157 (Krunal 104, Mishra 7-50, Avinash Yadav 3-70) beat Railways 200 (Arindam Ghosh 46, Mahesh Rawat 50, Krunal 4-40, Bhargav Bhatt 3-33) & 106 (Bhargav Bhatt 5-43) by 164 runs in Delhi.
Baroda 6 points, Railways 0 points
Jammu & Kashmir 144 (Qamran Iqbal 64, Arup Das 3-52, Mukhtar Hussain 5-39) & 231/6 (Khajuriya 67, Rasool 67) beat Assam 128 (Mrinmoy Dutta 35*, Rohit Sharma 3-43, Umar Nazir 3-31) & 245 (Rishav Das 95, Puryakastha 46, Irfan Pathan 3-45, Rasool 3-30) by 4 wickets in Guwahati.
J&K 6 points, Assam 0 points
Jharkhand 409 (Deobrat 150, Nazim Siddiqui 134, Neelambuj Vats 5-50) & 144/7 (Deobrat 38, Saurabh Tiwary 37) drew with Tripura 253 (Udiyan Bose 44, Rajib Saha 48*, Rahul Shukla 4-38) & 308 (Bishal Ghosh 61, Udiyan Bose 91, Neelambuj Vats 55*, Utkarsh Singh 3-55) in Jamshedpur.
Jharkhand 3 points, Tripura 1 point
Odisha 177 (Biplab Samantray 41, Raut 56, Arun Bamal 4-61) & 256/5 (Debasish Samantray 102, Anurag Sarangi 46*) drew with Services 417/8d (Navneet Singh 64, Paliwal 62, Vikas Hathwala 115*) in Delhi.
Services 3 points, Odisha 1 point
Rajasthan 513/8d (Chetan Bist 63, Lomror 89, Robin Bist 169*, Ashok Menaria 76, Lakshay Garg 3-127) & 27/0 beat Goa 244 (Amogh Desai 44, Kauthankar 48, Rahul Chahar 4-86) & 295 (Kamat 96, Amit Verma 118, Tanvir Ul-Haq 4-87, Rahul Chahar 5-81) in Porvorim.
Rajasthan 7 points, Goa 0 points
Uttar Pradesh 133 (Rinku 43, Harshal 3-32, Ajit Chahal 5-16) & 110/4 (Samarth Singh 53*) beat Haryana 110 (Himanshu Rana 50, Saurabh Kumar 7-33) & 129 (Ankit Kumar 51, Saurabh Kumar 7-32) by 6 wickets in Lahli.
Uttar Pradesh 6 points, Haryana 0 points
Nagaland 377/9d (Paras Sehrawat 112, Sedezhalie Rupero 65, Jonathan 131, Kazi 50*, Licha Tehi 3-80, Deendyal 4-84) beat Arunachal Pradesh 135 (Suyal 4-28, Kazi 3-13) & 122 (Techi Doria 33, Kazi 6-22) by an innings and 120 runs in Sovima.
Nagaland 7 points, Arunachal Pradesh 0 points
Puducherry 238 (Karthik 55, Titus 42, Fabid 41, Thokchom 4-65, Konthoujam 3-48) & 13/0 beat Manipur 32 (Yashpal 50, Pankaj 4-32, Raiphi 4-58) & 118 (Yashpal 52, Pankaj 4-20, Rohit 3-22) by 10 wickets in Anantapur.
Puducherry 7 points, Manipur 0 points
Bihar 440 (Rahmatullah 99, Aman 111, Vivek Kumar 102, Lalhruai Ralte 5-122) beat Mizoram 77 (Akhil Rajput 49, Saket 3-26, Quadri 6-19) & 147 (Taruwar Kohli 76, Quadri 4-50 Aman 5-28) by an innings and 216 runs in Jorhat.
Bihar 7 points, Mizoram 0 points
Meghalaya 826/7d (Biswa 175, Bisht 343, Nagar 148, Gurinder 101*) drew with Sikkim 219 (Milind 117, Gurinder 3-71) & 304/4 (Nilesh Lamichaney 70, Milind 127*, Gurinder 3-84) in Bhubaneshwar.
Meghalaya 3 points, Sikkim 1 point
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo