Ranji round-up – Services and Karnataka win thrillers; Dube-led Mumbai crush Bengal


The fifth round of the Ranji Trophy produced only the second-ever one-run win in the tournament’s history. It also produced a few thrillers, along with a rare instance of a match being played in snowy conditions in Dharamsala. Here are the key takeaways.

The comeback

Saurashtra, the defending champions, pulled off a miraculous win in Solapur to keep their knockout hopes alive.

Down and out at 69 for 8 in their second innings, with their lead just 112, they were revived by Jaydev Unadkat, the captain, and Chirag Jani, one of their premier allrounders, who made 45 and 43 respectively.

The ninth-wicket pair added 93 to help Saurashtra set Maharashtra a target of 213, which proved 48 too many. Left-arm spinner Parth Bhut sent Maharashtra on a tailspin by picking up 7 for 44, his fourth five-for in first-class cricket.

Seven Maharashtra batters got off to starts, but none managed more than Taranjitsingh Dhillon’s 28 at No. 7. The defeat sees Maharashtra languishing in the second half of the Group A table, while Saurashtra are closing in on the top three.

The thrillers

Having come into their fifth-round fixture without a win, Services were bundled out for 108 on the opening morning under swinging conditions in Lahli. It’s from here that they orchestrated an epic comeback against Haryana that culminated in a sensational one-run victory.

This was only the second time in Ranji history that a team had managed to secure victory by one run. Andhra was the only other team to pull off this feat, when they beat Tamil Nadu by this margin, at Salem in 1974-75.

Pulkit Narang, the offspinner who has recently been part of India A, led Services’ turnaround. His three wickets were instrumental in Services pocketing a five-run first innings lead. Rajat Paliwal, the captain, then led the way with 86 in the second innings to set Haryana a target of 146, which if achieved would have propelled them to the top of the standings.

Haryana made a good fist of the target, with openers Ankit Kumar and Harshal Patel adding 51. Then from 81 for 1, they sensationally collapsed; losing 6 for 11 as Narang ran through the batting line-up to pick up 5 for 55 as Services clinched a famous win.

Chasing 226, the inexperienced top order, sans Mayank Agarwal and Devdutt Padikkal, caved in and were at 99 for 6. Stand-in captain Nikin Jose registered a pair. But the lower order rallied with Pandey remaining unbeaten on 67.

Pandey aside, there was a crucial contribution from pacer Vijayakumar Vyshak, who made 38. But when he was dismissed, Karnataka still needed 29 runs with just two wickets in hand.

Pandey found support from Vidwath Kaverappa and Vasuki Koushik to clinch an unlikely win. Vyshak had also picked up a five-for with the ball in Railways’ second innings to help limit Railways’ lead, which proved to be crucial.

The win helped Karnataka jump to second in Group C, level on points with Tamil Nadu. However, TN are toppers by virtue of a better quotient and two bonus points to Karnataka’s zero.

The upset

Gujarat, the early pace-setters of the season, have stumbled big time. After winning their first two games, they’ve now lost two on the bounce, in addition to a drawn game due to the elements. This leaves them precariously placed, and outside the top three, in Group C going into the second half of the league phase.

Their latest defeat was against the Wriddhiman Saha-led Tripura, a team that had only won nine Ranji games in all since they came into existence in 1985-86. However, this season alone, they’ve added two more wins and are third in the pool, which gives them a chance of pushing for the knockouts.

Tripura’s win was all the more special as they rallied around in the second innings after conceding a 26-run lead, courtesy an outstanding effort from Manisankar Murasingh who scored 72 in their 343.

Gujarat weren’t really in the chase of 318, slumping to 64 for 5 from where there was no turnaround. Parvez Sultan, the left-arm spinner, ended with a match haul of 10 for 116.

The victory march

Mumbai recorded their fourth win in five games as they thumped Bengal by an innings and four runs at Eden Gardens. The turnaround was led by Shivam Dube, the captain, and debutant Suryansh Shedge, who added 144 for the fifth wicket on the opening day. From 87 for 4, they managed 412 in the first innings.

Bengal were bundled out for 199 and 209, with only Anustup Majumdar (first innings) and Abishek Porel (second innings) standing tall with the bat. Fast bowler Mohit Awasthi recorded figures of 7 for 52 as Bengal were skittled in under 60 overs in the second innings.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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