Mohd Kaif's ability to lead the side, especially in the domestic T20 Trophy in Jaipur last month, had come in for sharp criticism after Uttar Pradesh finished fifth in the Central Zone for the third consecutive time.
But few can question Kaif's ability as a leader in the longer version.
On Tuesday, Kaif came up with a half century against Punjab in their Elite Group B match of the Ranji Trophy at the Bhama Shah Stadium. Beginning his innings with a cover drive off debutant seamer Navdeep Siddhu, the skipper kept striking the ball along the mat.
Before he was bowled by Navdeep Singh, three overs before the end of Day Two, Kaif struck 58 off 176 balls with the help of six boundaries and a six. UP ended at 221/5, 67 short of Punjab's first innings total of 288.
With UP struggling at 157/3, Kaif along with debutant Digvijay Singh Rawat (38) steadied the innings, adding 70 for the fourth wicket.
Openers Tanmay Srivastava (35) and Shivakant Shukla (39) gave a sound start, adding 71 for the opening wicket, before being sent back in quick succession before lunch.
Coming on the back of two centuries, including a knock of 150 in the under-22 category this season, Rawat appeared confident but lost his cool after smashing six boundaries in his 84-ball innings and gave a simple catch to Vishwas Bhalla off Rajwinder Singh.
Earlier, the Punjab innings folded at 288 as the remaining four wickets fell in just 7.2 overs in the morning. RP Singh took 2/82 while Praveen Kumar completed his 10th five-wicket haul in his 33rd Ranji match.
Brief Scores: Punjab 1st innings: 288 all out ( K. Goel 58, S.Kanwar 42; P.Kumar 5/72). Uttar Pradesh 1st innings: 221/5 wickets (M Kaif 58)