There were no two-day finishes in the fifth round of the Ranji Trophy 2018-19, but several matches were hurtling towards conclusions. While there were two hat-tricks in separate matches, the batsmen went one-up on the bowlers in terms of grabbing the spotlight.
The hat-trick men
Uttarakhand's Deepak Dhapola has taken at least a four-wicket haul in each of his four matches so far. He ended up with 6 for 52 against Meghalaya, including a hat-trick spread over two overs. Abhay Negi was caught behind off the last ball of the 90th over, Wanlambok Nongkhlaw was bowled by the first ball of the 92nd, and Dipu Sangma was lbw next ball. Dhapola took all five wickets to fall in the morning, as Meghalaya, resuming on 294 for 5, were bowled out for 311. Uttarakhand are 175 for 4 in their reply, with Vineet Saxena and Rajat Bhatia batting on half-centuries.
Nagaland's Tahmeed Rahman took the second hat-trick of the day, shortly after Dhapola had taken his. Manipur were 273 for 5, when Tahmeed struck. He bowled debutant Samson Singh, had Kabrambam Meitei lbw, and then bowled Nungleppam Singh. That was the only bright spot for Nagaland though, who are 150 for 4 in their second innings, still trailing by 60 runs.
Madhya Pradesh's Ajay Rohera went to sleep on Thursday night in sight of a century on debut. He'll go to sleep on Friday knowing that the highest ever score by a debutant in the Ranji Trophy is one hit away. Rohera is batting on 255, and only Amol Muzumdar (260) is ahead of him. As for the match, Madhya Pradesh have got to 539 for 4 after having bowled Hyderabad out for just 124.
Mayank Raghav meanwhile missed out on also challenging for the same record. He turned his overnight hundred into 228 for Manipur, more than two thirds of their score of 336. He was the difference between Manipur and Nagaland.
The third double-centurion of the day was Bihar's Indrajit Kumar, who made 222 to drive his team to 536 for 5 declared. Arunachal Pradesh have begun their second innings well at 98 for 1, but given their 84 all out first-innings performance, they still find themselves trailing by 354 runs.
It was not all uninterrupted glory for batsmen. There were some hard-luck tales too. Fabid Ahmed, domiciled in Mahe which is part of Puducherry, had played for Kerala for four seasons before signing up with his home team. Back in his erstwhile home at the Krishnagiri Stadium in Wayanad, Fabid was out for 99, missing out on a second successive hundred. Puducherry, however, had piled on 647 for 8 declared and then reduced Sikkim to 48 for 5. Sikkim's only silver lining is that Milind Kumar is still batting.
While Rohera and Raghav got the opportunity to make big scores on debut, Tamil Nadu's Shahrukh Khan was left high and dry on 92 not out against Kerala. At 249 for 6 overnight and just 18 runs away from his century, Shahrukh must have thought he had the time and space to get there. However, Tami Nadu were bowled out for 268, with Sandeep Warrier and Basil Thampi sharing the last four wickets. But while that was a disappointment, the bowlers reduced Kerala to 151 for 9, giving Tamil Nadu a firm shot at an outright win.
For those searching for a Bollywood connection to cricket even in the Ranji Trophy though, if Shahrukh did well on Day 1, it was the turn of Salman Khan to do well on Day 2. Batting at No.7 for Rajasthan against Assam, Salman made 71, helping build a sizeable first-innings lead of 217.
The debut that fizzled was M Asaduddin's, who made only 2, against Services. His wicket was part of a Goa collapse and they found themselves 120 for 8 at one point, before Darshan Misal hit 101 not out from No.8, taking them to 259 for 9 and a 75-run lead.
One man who has chance at a fairytale ending is Gautam Gambhir. He's batting on 92 for Delhi, having started out at rocket pace but then consolidated. Delhi are on a healthy 190 for 1, replying to Andhra's 390 all out.
Saurabh Kumar added to his six-wicket haul on first day by taking 5 for 21 on Friday, bringing Uttar Pradesh roaring back into the match against J&K despite having conceded a 102-run first-innings lead. His last three bowling innings have now netted Saurabh 6 for 77 (against Rajasthan), 6 for 90, and 5 for 21. He could still more to the last one given that J&K are 98 for 7.
Dharmendrasinh Jadeja - or Saurashtra's 'other Jadeja' as he is sometimes called - wreaked havoc on Karnataka with career-best figures of 7 for 103, bowling them out for 217 at the stroke of stumps. With two days left and a lead of 99 runs, Saurashtra can look forward to sending the retiring Jaydev Shah into the sunset with an outright win.
Yusuf Pathan hit his 11th first-class century as Baroda more than doubled their overnight 165 for 7 against Chhattisgarh. Resuming on 46, Yusuf had support from No.9 Bhargav Bhatt and No.10 Rishi Arothe. He ended up on 129 not out with Baroda making 385. Bhatt's 67 and Arothe's 63 were both career-best efforts. Bhatt at least had a first-class fifty, but Arothe's previous highest in four games was just 14.
Irfan Pathan had begun J&K's match against Uttar Pradesh with a sparkling 91 off 76, but he couldn't match his older brother's good show on Friday. He didn't bowl in UP's innings, and was out for 8, as J&K let slip a position of advantage. Having established a first-innings lead of 102, they tottered to 98 for 7 in the second innings. One man who will want to make a significant contribution whenever UP begin their fourth innings chase is Suresh Raina. His scores so far in the Ranji Trophy have been 10, 41, 33 and 18.
Groups A and B:
Railways 266/3 (Bhille 109*, A Ghosh 69*) trail Gujarat 367 (Panchal 69, Chawla 130, Amit Mishra 4-93) by 101 runs in Valsad. Scorecard