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.
With no Shubman Gill or Anmolpreet Singh, Punjab are struggling at 75 for 9 against Himachal Pradesh. Big things might have been expected of Yuvraj Singh, but he was run out for just 4. Himachal were driven by Mayank Dagar's all-round show. He first hit a career-best 71 to take the team to 390, and has taken 4 for 22 in Punjab's innings so far.
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
Mumbai 196/5 (Tare 63, Lad 70*) trail Maharashtra 352 (Gugale 101, Khurana 71, Pande 74, Parkar 4-56) by 156 runs in Pune. Scorecard
Chhattisgarh 129 (Swapnil 5-23) & 174/4 (Dhaliwal 79) trail Baroda 385 (Yusuf 129*, Bhatt 67, Arothe 63, Verma 4-184) by 82 runs. Scorecard
Saurashtra 316 (Jaydev 97, Suchith 6-111) lead Karnataka 217 (Nischal 58, Nair 63, D Jadeja 7-103) by 99 runs in Rajkot. Scorecard
Delhi 190/1 (Gambhir 92*) trail Andhra 390 (Bhui 187, Bhati 5-48) by 200 runs in New Delhi. Scorecard
Punjab 75/9 (M Dagar 4-22) trail Himachal 390 (Kalsi 82, M Dagar 71) by 315 runs in Mohali. Scorecard
Kerala 151/9 (P Rahul 59, Rahil Shah 3-32, T Natarajan 3-42) trail Tamil Nadu 268 (Indrajith 87, Shahrukh 92*, Warrier 5-52, Thampi 4-62) by 117 runs in Chennai. Scorecard
MP 539/4d (Rohera 255*, Yash Dubey 128*) lead Hyderabad 124 (Himalay 69*, Avesh 7-24) by 415 runs. Scorecard
Tripura 235/7 (Pratyush 76) trail Haryana 292 (Bishnoi 82, Rahul Dagar 114, Ajoy Sarkar 5-57, MB Mura Singh 4-74) by 57 runs in Agartala. Scorecard
Goa 259/9 (Darshan Misal 101*, Pathania 4-74, Pandey 4-59) lead Services 184 (Ravi Chauhan 75, Prabhudessai 5-52) by 75 runs in Porvorim. Scorecard
J&K 290 (Rasool 87, Irfan 91, Saurabh Kumar 6-90) & 98/7 (Saurabh Kumar 5-21) lead Uttar Pradesh 188 (Rinku Singh 66, Rasool 4-47) by 200 runs in Jammu. Scorecard
Jharkhand 172 (Basant Mohanty 5-44) & 107/3 lead Odisha 201 (Sarangi 58, Pradhan 54) by 78 runs in Ranchi. Scorecard
Assam 108 (Aniket Choudhary 5-38) & 109/3 (Gokul Sharma 64*) trail Rajasthan 325 (Lomror 133, Salman Khan 71, Mali 5-62) trail by 108 runs in Jaipur. Scorecard
Sikkim 48/5 (Pankaj Singh 2-10, Rohit D 2-12) trail Puducherry 647/8 d (Dogra 253, Fabid 99) by 599 runs in Wayanad. Scorecard
Uttarakhand 175/4 (Saxena 62*, Bhatia 54*) trail Meghalaya 311 (Bisht 154, Nagar 91, Dhapola 6-52) by 136 runs in Dehradun. Scorecard
Nagaland 126 (Priyojit 3-20) & 150/4 (Jonathan 59) trail Manipur 336 (Raghav 228, Tahmeed 5-108) by 60 runs in Sovima. Scorecard
Arunachal Pradesh 84 (Ashutosh Aman 4-26) & 98/1 (Samarth 52*) trail Bihar 536/5 (Indrajit 222, Babul 98) by 354 runs in Patna. Scorecard
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo