A day of intense battle left the Hyderabad-Punjab Ranji Trophy Elite group match nicely poised at the PCA Stadium here on Wednesday.

Both teams had their moments by turns as Punjab managed to take a slender 28-run lead by stopping Hyderabad at 193 on the second day. At stumps, the host had reached 59 for three in its second innings for an overall lead of 87 runs.

As things stand, Punjab is looking to set a target of over 250 while Hyderabad is confident of keeping it under 200, expecting the medium pacers to once again make the most of the conditions and the bouncy pitch.

Rarely has a domestic first-class match witnessed medium pacers accounting for all the wickets, 23 in this case, with the spinners getting just five overs in two days. Should the weather hold for the next two days, the match should produce an outright winner.

On a day of fluctuating fortunes, Punjab was eyeing a first innings lead in excess of 100 runs after reducing Hyderabad to 89 for seven at lunch. But Ahmed Quadri’s gallant unbeaten 73 lifted the spirits in the Hyderabad camp and eventually made the slender first innings lead almost insignificant in the given scenario.

Quadri, who came in at number eight and eventually ran out of partners, smashed 10 boundaries during his retrieving stands of 52 for the eighth wicket with M. P. Arjun and 47 for the ninth wicket with Ashwin Yadav to significantly cut down Punjab’s advantage.

He dominated the tiring Punjab’s medium pace trio of Love Ablish, Harmeet Singh and Manpreet Gony in the extended second session.

Without ever being intimidated, Quadri played his shots, particularly the off-drive and the cover-drive, with confidence and scored his fourth half-century of the championship. The positive intent of Quadri was particularly pleasing as he went about resurrecting Hyderabad’s fortunes with the kind of rearguard action that almost took Punjab by surprise.

Hyderabad medium pacers Abdul Khader and Alfred Absolom then went on to dent Punjab’s confidence further by striking thrice in the post-tea session.

In fact, Punjab’s veteran campaigner Pankaj Dharmani reached a landmark in the day’s final over during his 144th innings spread over 105 Ranji Trophy matches.

According to noted statistician Rakesh Sanghi, Dharmani became only the seventh batsman Ranji Trophy to score 7000 runs.

Those ahead of him are: Amol Muzumdar (7640), Amarjit Kaypee (7623), Ajay Sharma (7438), Ashok Malhotra (7274), Brijesh Patel (7126) and Jacob Martin (7085).

The scores:

Punjab 1st innings: 221

Hyderabad 1st innings: T. Suman c Sohal b Ablish 17, A. Kumar lbw b Harmeet 9, A. Absolom c Kaul b Harmeet 8, A. Rayudu c Kaul b Harmeet 1, V. V. S. Laxman lbw b Ablish 26, N. A. Yadav c Ravi Inder b Ablish 0, A. Pai c Dharmani b Gony 11, Ahmed Quadri (not out) 73, M. P. Arjun lbw b Gony 16, Ashwin Yadav c Kaul b Gony 11, Abdul Khader c Dharmani b Ablish 4, Extras (lb-9, nb-8) 17, Total (in 62.5 overs) 193.

Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-28, 3-34, 4-52, 5-54, 6-73, 7-89, 8-141, 9-188.

Punjab bowling: Harmeet Singh 23-7-52-3, Love Ablish 18.5-3-70-4, M. S. Gony 17-0-58-3, V. K. Bhalla 2-0-2-0, Rahul Sharma 2-1-2-0.

Punjab 2nd innings: S. Sohal b Khader 18, Ravi Inder Singh c Arjun Yadav b Khader 4, Uday Kaul b Absolom 15, T. Kohli (batting) 8, P. Dharmani (batting) 10, Extras (lb-1, nb-1, w-2) 4, Total (for three wickets in 23 overs) 59.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-27, 3-49.

Punjab bowling: Absolom 8-2-32-1, Khader 10-5-17-2, M. P. Arjun 5-1-9-0.

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