Maharashtra have virtually booked a spot in the Ranji Elite quarter-finals after the ending the penultimate day with a 215-run lead and ten wickets in hand in Pune. The day started with Himachal Pradesh failing to overhaul Maharashtra's 415, conceding a 179-run lead. Apart from Paras Dogra, who made 81, none of HP's specialist batsmen showed the grit to hang around. For Maharashtra, Domnic Joseph finished with 4 for 42, his best figures in his maiden season.
Dogra provided steady momentum to the HP innings despite losing his captain Ajay Ratra, who was run out by a direct hit from Kedar Jahav at midwicket. Dogra found support in the 22-year-old Amit Kumar, but when the seventh-wicket partnership was worth 36, Joseph caught Dogra plumb in front of the wickets. At that point HP were 153 for 6.
Rishi Dhawan shared Dogra's resolve and had a 62-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Kumar. Maharashtra were on 36 for 0 at stumps, and will look to bat out the final day, having all but progressed to the quarters.
With the chance of a result almost impossible, Hyderabad set about trying to match Vidarbha's 531 on the penultimate day in Nagpur. Arjun Yadav scored an unbeaten 91 to help Hyderabad make steady progress towards a first-innings lead, though they still have to score another 316 on the final day, with six wickets in hand. If that wasn't daunting enough, Hyderabad would need to accelerate and better Vidarbha's run-rate, should they fail to take the first innings lead and remain not out.
At the start of the day, Vidarbha's tailenders resisted more than Hyderabad's bowlers might have expected them to, pushing the score past the 500-run mark. Amol Jungade, who had a career-best score of 32, scored his maiden century. Akshay Wakhare, Vidarbha's No. 10 batsman, scored his second first-class fifty, finishing with 72.
The day got worse for Hyderabad, who stumbled early on, losing two wickets for 28. Ravi Teja fell after making a start, run out for 39 while attempting a risky run. At 84 for 3, Vidarbha were in high spirits. But Yadav and BP Sandeep went about stabilising Hyderabad's innings with an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand of 132. Yadav, who had managed only 43 runs in the previous five rounds this season, was watchful and found an able partner in Sandeep, who remained unbeaten on 60.
If Hyderabad's first innings is not completed on the final day, the team with the better run-rate will make it through to the Ranji Elite quarter-finals.
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