That Bengal have reached here is down in no small measure to some Shahbaz magic against Baroda, who Bengal beat in their opening game despite being shot out for 88 on a damp surface in the first innings in Cuttack. After Bengal conceded a 93-run lead, Baroda set them 349 to win in the fourth innings. At 176 for 5, a spot in the quarter-finals looked distant, but Shahbaz (71*) and Abishek (53*) put up an unbroken 108-run stand to take them home. It was the sixth-highest chase in Ranji history and the highest ever for Bengal.
Railways are the only team that scored a 400-plus total against their inexperienced attack. It was a game that could have had massive significance in terms of Karnataka's qualification had the predicted rains owing to cyclones in Chennai hampered their final league fixture against Puducherry. As it turned out, Puducherry folded quickly and Karnataka wrapped up a bonus-point win to top the group and qualify comfortably. Nair's return to form with a 175 against Jammu and Kashmir, his first Ranji century since the 2017-18 semi-final, was particularly noteworthy. It came at a time when there were murmurs about his place in the XI.
Madhya Pradesh and Kerala had 13 points going into their final fixture, against each other. A first-innings lead would have clinched the deal for either side. Madhya Pradesh found a new hero in Yash Dubey, the opener, who made a career-best 289. His 277-run partnership with Patidar, who made 142, set up a massive first-innings total for them. And when time as called on the final day of a rain-affected game, Kerala's first innings was incomplete at 432 for 9, which gave both teams one point and Madhya Pradesh progressed based on a better quotient.
Having conceded a 164-run lead against Goa, they were on the brink at 208 for 7 in the second innings, effectively 44 for 7. Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Sarfaraz Khan and Aditya Tare were all dismissed. Over the next 40 overs, Tanush Kotian, the No. 9, batted with the lower order to make a career-best 98 to frustrate Goa and set up a 232-run target that gave their bowlers a total to defend on the final day. Mumbai went on to win and turn their campaign around in style.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo