Laxmi Shukla marked his 100th first-class game with a maiden double-century that has left Assam staring at an intimidating first-innings score from Bengal at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The contest had been pretty even at the end of day one when Bengal had finished on 257 for 5. But the game was firmly in Bengal's control by stumps on the second as they piled up 562 for 6, thanks to a record 417-run stand between overnight batsmen Shukla and Wriddhiman Saha, who is also Bengal's wicketkeeper. Their stand is the third-highest for the sixth wicket in all first-class cricket and the highest for that wicket in the Ranji Trophy. Shukla's 250, his fifth 100-plus score in first-class cricket, was laced with 35 fours and three sixes while Saha was more patient in his unbeaten 178 off 355 balls, striking 15 fours and three sixes. In reply, Assam had reached 10 without loss but have a mammoth task ahead of them.
Mumbai bounced back into a favourable position against Railways at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, and now can even fancy their first outright win of the season. In the absence of any centurion for the first time in three matches, the defending champions could manage only a slender 18-run first-innings lead. The man responsible for their quick downfall was seamer Anureet Singh, who picked up his second five-for of his three-season old Ranji career. But by stumps Mumbai had retained the control as Railways lost three wickets. Offspinner Ramesh Powar tested Railways' patience and temperament, picking two wickets, including set opener Marripuri Suresh for 28.
In the morning the overnight pair of Ajinkya Rahane and Sahil Kukreja started comfortably and looked set to raise a big partnership. But an erroneous decision to go for the pull against Anureet by Kukreja resulted in an easy catch. The very next ball, Rahane saw his off stump disturbed, defeated by a combination of movement and pace. Kukreja's 50 was the highest score for Mumbai, and his partnership with Rahane was the best pairing (67 runs). Mumbai's strong middle order floundered and the last four wickets fell without any addition to the score.
But on a pitch that has enough for both the seamers and the spinners, Mumbai hold the edge.
Shikhar Dhawan, the left-handed opener, consolidated Delhi's dominant position against Gujarat at the Feroz Shah Kotla with an unbeaten century which gave his team a 177-run lead with seven wickets in hand at the end of the second day. Delhi's bowlers had done their bit on day one, skittling out Gujarat for 71, and the batsmen took over on the second. Dhawan added 99 with opening partner Unmukt Chand before Gujarat hit back, grabbing three wickets for 25. But their hopes of limiting Delhi's lead were thwarted by an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand between Dhawan, who scored his tenth first-class ton, and Yogesh Nagar that has yielded 124 and put Delhi on track to achieve their first win of the competition this year.
Saurashtra had to bear a wicketless second day against Tamil Nadu at the Khandheri Cricket Stadium in Rajkot as opener Abhinav Mukund and S Badrinath piled it on. The progress was steady as Tamil Nadu got themselves into a virtually impregnable position. Mukund smacked 25 fours and a six in his unbeaten 217, his tenth first-class score of a hundred or more, while Badrinath, the more attacking of the two, moved to 142 off 219, his 24th century in the format. The pair have added 280 - TN ended the day on 483 for 2 - and will look to bat Saurashtra out of the game and strengthen their position in the group standings where they are currently second.
Ambati Rayudu's 91 off 130 balls gave Baroda a 119-run first innings lead against Uttar Pradesh in Vadodara. Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel had done the job for Baroda on day one, bowling UP out for 190, and on Thursday it was Rayudu's turn as he took the table-toppers from a precarious position at 113 for 4 to a substantial first-innings total.
Rayudu has made his name as an aggressive batsman in Twenty20 cricket, after making the transition from the Indian Cricket League (ICL) to the Mumbai Indians, and is now Baroda's leading run-getter this season. He was well supported in a 147-run stand by Kedar Devdhar, who played the sheet anchor role, taking 212 balls to get to 66.
UP fast bowler Sudeep Tyagi was not afraid to use the short ball early on and got the crucial wicket of Yusuf Pathan in his 2 for 80. Rayudu's knock should have ended on 80, when Tanmay Srivastava appeared to have held a low catch at leg gully off RP Singh, but the third umpire decided there wasn't enough evidence to declare the catch clean. Singh got his man 11 runs later, though, and then Bhuvneshwar Kumar took three of the last five wickets, which Baroda lost for 49 runs, to finish with figures of 4 for 51. UP ended the day at 25 for 0, as openers Srivastava and Digvijay Singh batted out ten overs.
Haryana surprised Karnataka at the Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Rohtak and put themselves in a position of control at the end of the second day. Karnataka would have hoped to compile a challenging first-innings score with two of their star batsmen, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, at the crease at the start of the day. But the batting failed to measure up against Haryana's new-ball bowlers Joginder Sharma and Sanjay Budhwar who split five wickets each.
Once the overnight batsmen had been dismissed after getting starts, the main resistance to Haryana's seam-and-swing charge came from captain R Vinay Kumar, who, along with Abhimanyu Mithun, who had showed plenty of determination with the bat when India toured Sri Lanka earlier in the year, helped Karnataka reach 222. In response, half-centuries from Sunny Singh and opener Nitin Saini, who is still unbeaten, pushed Haryana to 146 for 3, leaving them confident of gaining a first-innings lead against last year's runners-up.
A collective batting effort propelled Himachal Pradesh to 473 against Punjab at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharmasala. Though there were no centuries, the lower order batted determinedly to ensure the advantage gained on the first day remained with Himachal. Overnight batsmen Manvinder Bisla and Mukesh Kumar helped themselves to half-centuries and added 100 for the fifth wicket. Both fell in quick succession but Kuldeep Diwan (61) and Rishi Dhawan (41) took on the mantle, putting together 89 and taking their team past 400. Vikramjit Malik and Ashok Thakur, who made for an excellent fast-bowling combination last season, chipped in with 19 and 21 respectively to frustrate Punjab. And if it wasn't enough, they picked up a wicket each to leave their opponents at 54 for 2 at stumps.