Gujarat rode on the brilliance of captain Parthiv Patel (90) and Manprit Juneja (77) to reach 291 for six at the end of Day II of the Ranji Trophy final. (HIGHLIGHTS)
Ending Wednesday with a lead of 63 runs at the Holkar Cricket Stadium, Gujarat began the day by losing the openers cheaply as Priyank Panchal (6) and Samit Gohel (4) were dismissed with 37 on the board.
Parthiv then stitched a 69-run partnership for the third wicket with Bhargav Merai (45) and a 120-run stand with Juneja to lead his team out of trouble.
It was a captain’s knock from the 32-year-old as he didn’t go for the big shots and took his time before hitting 12 boundaries. He was lucky on 20 when an edge went to wicketkeeper Aditya Tare off Shardul Thakur, but the bowler had overstepped.
Juneja gave able support and was in tune with his performance against Jharkhand in the semifinal.
Though Juneja had a shaky start, edging a few through the slips early on, he took pressure off the captain, as the duo scored at 4.58.
Juneja too had a couple of reprieves. On 15, Shreyas Iyer dropped a sitter at midwicket, and then umpire Anil Chaudhary adjudged him not out after Juneja seemed to edge one to Tare off Thakur after lunch.
With the duo going strong, captain Tare introduced Vishal Dabholkar in the 54th over but the move seemed a way to rest Abhishek Nayar. Using spin from both ends lasted just seven overs as Parthiv and Juneja hammered the spinners.
Nayar had to be re-introduced for his third spell in the 61st over and Mumbai’s go-to man earned the prized wicket of Parthiv — 10 short of his second ton in Ranji this season.
Thakur then got rid of Juneja, who played a rash shot. Though replays suggested the bowler may have overstepped, fortunately for Mumbai, the decision went in their favour.
Rujul Bhatt’s (25) quick-fire knock helped Gujarat’s cause, but after his dismissal in the 81st over, they scored only 27 runs off the remaining 68 deliveries. Chirag Gandhi (17) and Rush Kalaria (16) saw off the day.
It has been a forgettable outing for the defending champions but Tare felt the match was evenly poised. “There are three more days and we would have been in a better situation had we taken the opportunities that came our way, but it happens in cricket. The game is still open and we’ll be able to make a comeback,” said Tare, who got his 50th victim of the season — the highest for a keeper in Ranji history.