Saurashtra deployed its modest means to consolidate its position in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Punjab on Friday.
First Vishal Joshi’s off-spin tricked the top-order and in the post-tea session left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat produced a fiery spell with the second new ball to bring Punjab under immense pressure at 294 for nine in the first innings.
A desolate skipper Harbhajan Singh was in the middle with last man Sarabjeet Ladda for company at stumps, the team trailing Saurashtra by 183 runs.
Punjab’s dramatic collapse began with Uday Kaul’s suicidal run out. Punjab seemed to be sailing smoothly when Jiwanjot Singh and left-hander Ravi Inder Singh stretched their opening partnership to 128 from the overnight 40.
They faced Unadkat and Siddharth Trivedi with confidence and it was sheer joy to watch the highest-scorer of the season, Jiwanjot (984 runs), rise on his toes and punch Trivedi between point and cover for exquisite boundaries.
Just as pleasing was Ravi Inder Singh when he took on rookie left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, who conceded 86 runs without reward in 25 overs.
Off-spinner Kamlesh Makwana’s flat trajectory did not do enough off the wicket. But when Joshi spun the ball, made it curl towards slip as well as turn into the batsman, two wickets fell. Ravi Inder Singh (74, 11x4, 2x6) was flummoxed by a delivery that gained height and turned, took the edge and landed in the hands of Jaydev Shah in the slips.
Punjab took lunch at 142 for one, but saw Jiwanjot’s (68, 11x4) compact innings end when Joshi ripped another lovely off-spinner to trap him leg before. A freak catch off a full-blooded sweep — the ball stuck in Arpit Vasavada’s right armpit — saw the end of a short, but bright knock from Mandeep Singh.
With Taruwar Kohli (300 not out in the previous match against Jharkhand) and Uday Kaul raising a half-century, Punjab made it to 252 for three at tea. With not enough support for Joshi, Jaydev Shah opted for the second new ball in the 85th over.
This turned out to be a master stroke, with Kohli, Amitoze and Siddharth Kaul falling to Unadkat, Bipul Sharma to Trivedi and Sandeep Sharma to Joshi, but the swift decline came after Uday Kaul had made the mistake of going for a single when Kohli was actually applauding the defensive shot he had played off Undakat. It proved fatal as Trivedi at mid-on caused his downfall with a direct hit.
The scores: Saurashtra — 1st innings: 477.
Punjab — 1st innings: Jiwanjot Singh lbw b Joshi 68, Ravi Inder Singh c J. Shah b Joshi 74, T. Kohli c Kotak b Unadkat 59, Mandeep Singh c Vasavada b Joshi 20, U. Kaul (run out) 31, Amitoze Singh c Jogiyani b Unadkat 5, Bipul Sharma c Vasavada b Trivedi 4, Harbhajan (batting) 29, S. Kaul c Jogiyani b Unadkat 1, S. Sharma b Joshi 2, S. Ladda (batting) 0; Extras (w-1): 1; Total (for nine wkts. in 107 overs): 294.
Fall of wickets: 1-128, 2-152, 3-195, 4-252, 5-252, 6-261, 7-267, 8-272, 9-287.
Saurashtra bowling: Unadkat 22-6-52-3, Trivedi 21-8-45-1, D. Jadeja 25-1-86-0, Makwana 21-4-52-0, Joshi 18-2-59-4.
Keywords: Ranji Trophy