Ranji Trophy third round: A sweet first for Saurashtra, Pandey's special 200, the Parag show

Highlights from the latest round where 15 out of the 19 matches produced outright results

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Dharmendrasinh Jadeja picked up four wickets, Mumbai vs Saurashtra, Ranji Trophy 2022-23, 2nd day, Mumbai, December 28, 2022

Dharmendrasinh Jadeja played a key role in Saurashtra's win against Mumbai  •  PTI

Fifteen out of the 19 matches in round three of the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy produced outright results. This included a sweet first for Saurashtra, thrilling wins for Assam and defending champs Madhya Pradesh, and some noteworthy individual performances. Here's a recap.
The collapses
Vidarbha were cruising to their third straight win in the competition, but Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) had other ideas in Nagpur. Chasing 141, Vidarbha were in an excellent position at 97 for 3, before losing seven wickets for four runs in 28 deliveries. They eventually folded for 101. The wrecker-in-chief was left-arm spinner Abid Mushtaq, who finished with sensational figures of 8 for 18. The loss consigned Vidarbha to third place in Group D, while J&K lifted themselves off the bottom with their first win.
Andhra's collapse against Maharashtra wasn't any less dramatic. At 100 for 4 in their chase of 240, they were faced with an uphill task. But the wicket of Hanuma Vihari, their captain, opened the floodgates. Andhra lost 6 for 8 to fold for 108, losing by 131 runs. Maharashtra are now joint toppers with Mumbai in Group B. Both teams have 13 points from three matches; the big difference is Maharashtra are unbeaten.
Saurashtra's first
Over the years, Mumbai vs Saurashtra has been one-sided. The finals in 2012-13 and 2015-16 were both wrapped up by Mumbai inside three days. Several Saurashtra players admitted to having a mental block. But things have changed. Ever since Saurashtra lifted the Ranji Trophy in 2019-20 season, they have been a team on the upswing across formats.
Earlier this year, both sides played out a thriller in Ahmedabad, with the last-wicket pair of Jaydev Unadkat and Chetan Sakariya batting out 17.2 overs to secure a thrilling draw for Saurashtra. Eleven months later, a young team without their talismanic captain Unadkat and senior player Cheteshwar Pujara, turned the screws on Mumbai to clinch victory by 48 runs early on the fourth day. It was their first-ever win over Mumbai in Ranji history.
Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, the left-arm spinning allrounder, first claimed a six-for to help Saurashtra pocket a crucial 59-run lead, before making 90 in the second innings to set Mumbai a target of 280. Mumbai were cruising at 111 for 1, with Prithvi Shaw making 68, before losing their way. They were bowled out for 231.
Samarth's golden run and Pandey's special 100th
R Samarth, Karnataka's 29-year-old opener, is in the form of his life. He's hit three centuries in three matches so far this season to single-handedly steer his team's batting. His latest hundred, a 238-ball 140 that also happens to be his 13th first-class century, laid the foundation for a mammoth first-innings total that helped Karnataka take first-innings honours against Goa.
Samarth's knock, however, was shaded by Manish Pandey's blistering 186-ball 208 not out in his 100th first-class match. It was a timely return to form for Pandey, on whom considerable pressure had been building in recent times, especially after the selectors had seemingly put the non-performers on notice. Pandey's first three knocks in the season were scores of 10, 23 and 45.
After the knock, Pandey spoke of drawing inspiration from David Warner, who battled poor form and immense selection pressure before breaking the rut with a magnificent double-ton against South Africa in the Boxing Day Test.
Karnataka may look back at the Goa game and wonder if they delayed their first-innings declaration by a bit. They are in a tight race with Kerala and Chhattisgarh for the top two qualifying spots from Group C. All three sides have 13 points in three matches, but Karnataka have just one outright vis-a-vis two by Kerala and Chhattisgarh.
The Parag and Panchal show
Riyan Parag is proving to be quite a handy allrounder. That India don't have top-order batters who can bowl lately has got him to focus more on his secondary skills with the ball, and the efforts are showing. He not only picked up eight wickets with his legbreaks and wrong'uns, but also made a bruising 28-ball 78 in the second innings - courtesy eight fours and six sixes - to help Assam swell their lead against Hyderabad. Then, defending 250, Hyderabad were on course at 171 for 4 when Parag made a splash with the ball. His three quick wickets detailed their chase, with Assam clinching a thriller by 18 runs for their first win this season which keeps them in the hunt for the top two in Group B.
In Ahmedabad, Gujarat captain Priyank Panchal proved selection snubs can't deter him from continuing his run-glut. Having been on the fringes of the national team as a reserve opener, Panchal has recently seen Bengal's Abhimanyu Easwaran leapfrog him in the pecking order. Panchal, though, seems to have taken it in his stride. After scores of 111, 85, 52 and 0, he made a magnificent unbeaten 257 in the third round against Chandigarh to steer Gujarat to an innings win. With two wins in three matches, Gujarat are placed second in Group D at the moment.
The Plate League
Meghalaya conceded a 97-run lead to Bihar but hit back sensationally to bowl their opponents out for 99 and knock off their 200-run target with four wickets in hand. This gave them a third straight win that has vaulted them to the top of the standings. Sikkim, who conceded an 87-run lead to Mizoram, are second after they pulled off a coup. Having shot Mizoram out for 156 in the second innings, Sikkim got to their target of 244 with four wickets in hand.
Leading run-getter after round three (Elite): Dhruv Shorey (Delhi): six innings, 579 runs, average 144.75, two hundreds, two fifties
Plate: Taruwar Kohli (Mizoram): five innings, 510 runs, average 102, two hundreds, two fifties
Leading wicket-taker (Elite): Jalaj Saxena (Kerala): 26 wickets in six innings, average 16.34, three five-fors
Leading wicket taker (Plate): Rajesh Bishnoi (Meghalaya): 26 wickets in six innings, average 9.57, three five-fors

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo