2015/16 Ranji Trophy Semi-finals, Day 3 Roundup: Saurashtra storm into Ranji final, Mumbai extend lead to 429 runs
Saurashtra made it to the final of the 2015/16 Ranji Trophy after defeating first-time semi-finalists Assam by 10 wickets at the Reliance Stadium in Vadodara. Riding on Cheteshwar Pujara's 31st first-class hundred and Jaydev Unadkat's five-wicket haul in the second innings, Saurashtra dominated Assam all through Day 3.
Resuming Day 3 on 254/5 with Pujara unbeaten on 116 and Chirag Jani unbeaten on 29, Saurashtra added 99 runs to their total to finish their first innings with a lead of 119 runs. Jani contributed with a patient 123-ball 43 while tailender Deepak Punia hit a few lusty blows and scored 42 off 44 balls, helping his side to finish with a good lead.
Pujara, who had been brilliant on Day 2, was the first wicket to go on the third day as he was caught by Syed Mohammad off the bowling of Krishna Das. Pujara perished after making 126 runs, allowing his team to be on top in the game. Krishna Das and Arup Das picked up three wickets each while Amit Verma picked up two for Assam.
Saurashtra came back to bowl the second innings with just an intention of bowling out their opponents as soon as possible and seal a place in the final.
None of the batsmen were able to get going for Assam as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Lower order batsman, Syed Mohammad was the top-scorer for Assam as he scored 39 to help Assam take a lead, although the lead was minimal.
Unadkat continued his form from the first innings and picked up five wickets while Hardik Rathod picked up three wickets. Saurashtra employed a new tactic to get Assam captain, Gokul Sharma out as the whole team clapped for a few good seconds before the bowler got into his bowling stride.
The last time Saurashtra made the final of the Ranji Trophy was during the 2012/13 season when they had lost to Mumbai and finished runners-up. Saurashtra last won the domestic tournament in the 1936/37 season when they were formerly known as Nawanagar cricket team.
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 353/10 (Pujara 126, Jackson 47; Krishna Das 3/80, Arup Das 3/105) & 24/0 (Jogiyani 23*) beat Assam 234/10 & 139/10 (Syed Mohammad 39; Unadkat 5/45, Rathod 3/26) by 10 wickets.
In the second semi-final, Mumbai extended their lead over Madhya Pradesh to 429 runs and inched closer to a spot in the final of the tournament after some excellent performances with the ball and the bat.
MP resumed the day on 197/5 with well-set batsmen Naman Ojha and Ankit Dane at the crease. However, some good quality bowling from Balwinder Sandhu and Abhishek Nayar helped bowl out MP for 227 runs. MP had added only 26 runs on Day 3 while losing five wickets.
Sandhu picked up five wickets while Nayar picked up three to clean up the MP tail and give Mumbai a 144-run lead in the first innings.
When MP got Mumbai opener, Akhil Herwadkar out for nought in the very first over it seemed like they had a chance in this game after all. However, the in-form Shreyas Iyer played some excellent counter-attacking cricket and scored a 46-ball 58 that included nine fours and one six.
After losing opener Bhavin Thakkar soon after, middle-order batsmen Suryakumar Yadav and Aditya Tare were involved in an unbeaten 190-run partnership to take Mumbai to 285 at the end of Day 3, scoring at more than four an over. Both batsmen were in their nineties at the close of play and will be hoping to score hundreds and then bowl out MP to face Saurashtra in the final.
Top run-getter, Shreyas Iyer's half-century allowed him to cross the 1200-run mark in the Ranji Trophy season. He is only the fifth player to score 1200 runs or more in a Ranji season. What makes this achievement incredible is his strike rate of 93.84, which places him in a league above all the other batsmen in the run-getters list.
Brief Scores: Mumbai 371 & 285/3 (Suryakumar Yadav 97*, Tare 90*; Datey 1/39) lead Madhya Pradesh 227/10 (Naman Ojha 79, Dane 44; Sandhu 5/43, Nayar 3/56) by 429 runs.