Indore: Zaheer Khan's incisive spell on Tuesday helped Mumbai pull off a stunning seven-run win over Madhya Pradesh in what turned out to be the most interesting Ranji Trophy group league encounter of this season.
Chasing a victory target of 311 on the final day, MP came tantalisingly close getting all-out for 303 giving the visitors their first outright win of the season. Mumbai now have 20 points but are placed fourth behind MP who are also on 20 but are ahead due to more outright wins.
Starting from an overnight score of 192 for five, Mumbai declared at 250 for five with Nayar getting a quickfire 62 to set up a target of 311. MP started the chase in the right earnest as Saxena took on the Mumbai attack with some powerful shots on the off-side.
He pulled inexperienced Javed Khan for a big six as MP reached 90 before Naman Ojha was taken at covers by Surya Yadav off Iqbal Abdulla's bowling. Left-hander Ankit Sharma then joined Saxena as the duo added 85 runs for the second wicket as Zaheer did the trick coming for his second spell. Zaheer first bowled a length delivery that saw Ankeet (30) uppishly driving and the catch at covers was taken by Abdulla.
Mumbai skipper Ajit Agarkar softened up Udit Birla with a delivery that hit him on the gloves. Zaheer reaped the benefit when he tentatively nudged at an outgoing delivery to be caught by Wasim Jaffer at slips.
From 175 for one, MP were reduced to 252 for eight and when Harpreet Singh (38) edged one off Nayar to Tare, one thought it was all over for the hosts but Pandey and Amarjeet Singh kept the game alive till the final three overs.
Brief scores: 304 & 250 for 5 decl (Wasim Jaffer 67, Abhishek Nayar 62 no, Amarjeet Singh 2 for 59). MP 244 & 303 (target 311) (Jalaj Saxena 128, Zaheer Khan 5 for 79, Abhishek Nayar 3 for 56). Mumbai won by 7 runs.
Gujarat vs Punjab:
In Valsad, left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhurv's five-wicket haul wrecked the formidable Punjab as Gujarat rose to second on the points table after a 37-run win. Chasing 231 to win on the final day, Punjab folded for 193 in 57.5 overs. With this win, Gujarat took their points tally to 21 after two and five draws in the seven matches they have played so far.
Punjab are, however, through to the quarterfinals as table-toppers after accumulating 32 points in the league engagements that ended today. Punjab's chase did not get off to the best of starts as their openers departed with just 11 on the board before number four batsman Mandeep Singh brought the innings back on track with a 64-ball 42 which included four fours and a six.
Gurkeerat Singh (30) and Amitoze Singh (20) made some decent contribution to take the team past 100 after the middle-order failure. At 130 for nine, Punjab didn't seem to have much of chance before a last-wicket stand of 65 between Sarabjit Ladda (29) and Sandeep Sharma (31) gave Gujarat the jitters.
But Dhurv completed his five-for by dismissing Sarabjit to seal the win for Gujarat.
Brief scores: Gujarat: 266 and 232 (Sarabjit Singh 4 for 112). Punjab: 268 and 193 in 57.5 overs (Mandeep 42, Sandeep 31, Dhurv 5 for 76).
Hyderabad vs Railways:
Hyderabad got the three points they needed, but not before enduring some anxious moments thanks to Mahesh Rawat's enterprise, on the fourth and final day.
Having set Railways 323 for a win on the final day, Hyderabad were in a spot of bother due to a quick 48 off 51 balls from Rawat, before India left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha removed him. Nitin Bhille remained not out on 65 in a team score of 280 for seven in 70 overs when the stumps were drawn for the final time in this Group A match at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
Amit Paunikar scored 52 at the top of the order while Karan Sharma made 48. Ojha was the best bowler for Hyderabad, returning figures of four for 95, while off-spinner Amol Shinde who had a five-for in the first innings, picked up two wickets.
Earlier, resuming on 130 for six, Akash Bhandari made an unbeaten 57 off 86 balls as Hyderabad declared their innings on 196 for eight, setting the visitors a stiff target.
Brief scores: Hyderabad: 337 and 196 for eight in 76.5 overs (Akash Bhandari not out 57; Anureet Singh 3 for 24, Karan Sharma 3 for 80).
Rajasthan vs Saurashtra:
In Jaipur, a handy first-innings lead of 71 runs proved to be crucial for Rajasthan as it helped them earn three points from their drawn Group A Ranji Trophy match against Saurashtra on the fourth and final day.
Chasing 306 for victory, Saurashtra reached 217 for five in their second innings to play out a draw and pocket one point from this encounter. Both the teams were looking for a win today as Saurashtra are fighting for a place in knock-out stage, while Rajasthan face a threat of relegation.
Resuming at 11 for no loss, Saurashtra needed 295 on the day for a win and they were right on course at 73 without any wicket. But just before lunch, they lost overnight batsman Sheldon Jackson for 32 and one-down batsman, Cheteswar Pujara (24) to be suddenly struggling at 119 for two.
In the second session, Shitanshu Kotak also departed for a well-made 54 off 112 balls studded with six boundaries. But skipper Jaydev Shah (34 runs, 35 b, 7x4) kept up the pace, even as Chirag Jani (9) gave him company for a while. But the dismissal of both Shah and Chirag with scorecard reading 164 for five, left the visitors in a danger of losing the match.
Arpit Vasavada (28 not out) and Kamlesh Makvana (25 not out), however, thwarted Rajasthan bowlers to steer their team to safety with an unbroken 53-run stand for the sixth wicket. With no result in sight, the match was called off after nine mandatory overs with Saurashtra at 217 for 5.
For Rajasthan, Aniket Choudhary grabbed three for 42, while Sumit Mathur (1 for 31) and Pankaj Singh (1 for 75) took wicket apiece.
Brief scores: Rajasthan: 299 & 234, Saurashtra: 228 & 217 for five in 88 overs (Shitanshu Kotak 54, Jaydev Shah 34; Aniket Choudhary 3 for 42). Railways: 213 and 280 for seven in 70 overs (Nitin Bhille not out 65, Amit Paunikar 52; Pragyan Ojha 4 for 95).
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