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    Ranji Trophy Group A, Day 4: Punjab win, MP avoid defeat

    Mohali: On the day he was named in India’s squad for the first two Tests against England, capping a return to the set-up after 15 months, Harbhajan Singh captained Punjab to an innings win over Hyderabad at the PCA Stadium. Having gone wicketless in 21 overs during the visitors’ first innings, Harbhajan took three to back up Siddarth Kaul’s 5 for 53 on Monday. Hyderabad were always playing catch-up. VVS Laxman resumed the day on 0 with his team at 46 for 3, and proceeded to bat out the entire morning session with opener Akshath Reddy offering solid support. But once the dogged stand was snapped by Harbhajan, who had Reddy dismissed for 59, the middle order gave way. Kaul removed Arjun Yadav for 0 and nine runs later got the big wicket of Laxman for 67 to complete his five-wicket haul. His elder brother, Uday Kaul, held five dismissals behind the stumps. Syed Quadri’s 45 was of only statistical significance as Harbhajan spun out two more to bowl out Hyderabad for 239, thereby losing by an innings and 68 runs. Punjab 565 for 6 beat Hyderabad 258 and 239 in 80 overs (VVS Laxman 67, Akshath Reddy 59, Syed Quadri 45; Siddarth Kaul 5/53, Harbhajan Singh 3/50) by an innings and 68 runsMumbai 570 and 230 for 5 in 64 overs (Kaustabh Pawar 85, Ajinkya Rahane 84) drew with Railways 426 in 126.4 overs (Krishnakant Upadhyay 45)At the Holkar Stadium in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s eighth-wicket pair of Anand Rajan and Jalaj Saxena batted 24.3 overs and 97 tense minutes to avert a defeat for the home team against Gujarat. With that heroic rearguard effort, MP earned one point but robbed three from Gujarat who would have fancied their chances of an outright win when the seventh wicket fell for 203. At the start of play MP were 23 for 0 chasing 407 for a win after Gujarat had taken the first-innings lead. Naman Ojha (64 off 81 balls) and Satyam Choudhary (47 off 195 balls) extended their alliance to 102 before the former was sent back by Mehul Patel, after which the bowler removed Harpreet Singh for 4. Things went further downhill when skipper Devendra Bundela departed at 142 for 4, and the wickets of Udit Birla and the debutant Choudhary six runs apart had Gujarat eyeing six points instead of three. But Saxena displayed immense concentration to bat out 115 balls for 52 runs, while Rajan – after a seven-wicket haul in Gujarat’s first innings – ate up 64 balls for nine as MP finished on 248 for 7 in 96 overs.Gujarat 355 drew with Madhya Pradesh 250 and 258 for 7 in 96 overs (Jalaj Saxena 52*, Naman Ojha 64, Satyam Choudhary 47)At Eden Gardens, hosts Bengal took three points from their match against Rajasthan after the defending champions batted out a draw and with it one point. Needing nine wickets in two sessions for six points from the match once Ashok Dinda bowled Ankit Lamba to leave Rajasthan 13 for 1 at lunch, Bengal failed to dislodge veteran Hrishikesh Kanitkar (80*) and Rashmi Parida (52*). The specialist pair gained useful batting practice in a 99-run stand that took Rajasthan to 181 for 3 when play was called off. The Rajasthan captain hit 12 fours during his 142-ball knock and Parida collected seven in his 89-ball effort. Of the 52 overs bowled to Rajasthan, 22 were spin. Earlier in the day, Pankaj Singh took four wickets to make it 9 for 83 for the match in helpful conditions to have Bengal at 157 for 7. Wriddhiman Saha hit his second half-century of the match to get the total to 232 for 9 before Manoj Tiwary declared with a lead of 329. With a possible 67 overs to dismiss Rajasthan, Bengal took the field and nipped out an early wicket before Kanitkar and Parida stemmed the tide. Bengal 258 and 232 for 9 in 72 overs (Wriddhiman Saha 65*; Pankaj Singh 4/34) drew with Rajasthan 161 and 181 for 3 in 52 overs (Hrishikesh Kanitkar 80*, Rashmi Parida 52*)Matters petered out to a tame conclusion at the Wankhede Stadium once Railways avoided follow-on before lunch, forcing Mumbai to settle for three points. Needing to score 41 runs to make Mumbai bat again, Railways’ ninth-wicket pair of Krishnakant Upadhyay (45) and Anureet Singh (30*) displayed commendable application in doing just that. Dhawal Kulkarni finally snuck out the last two wickets to bowl Railways out for 426. With no chance of an outright win, Mumbai opted for batting practice though fans at the Wankhede were denied a chance to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat again. Kaustabh Pawar made 85 off 173 balls while Ajinkya Rahane followed a first-innings century with an 81-ball 84 while the Indian selectors met in the premises to name him in the squad for the first two Tests against England. Ashish Yadav checked Mumbai’s progress with the wickets of Pawar, Aditya Tare (24) and Abhishek Nayar (0) to give Railways something to smile about. The visitors took one point from this match.