An unbeaten 178 from Shivakant Shukla propelled Uttar Pradesh to a place in the Ranji Trophy final at the expense of Tamil Nadu in Nagpur on Wednesday.
In a nervous final day, where the balance of power shifted towards either team, it was an off-drive from Shukla off L. Balaji that helped UP edge past Tamil Nadu’s first innings total of 445 and seal a final spot. UP skipper Mohd. Kaif declared the innings at 447.
Earlier, with the overnight pair of Shukla and Parminder Singh starting the day on a strong footing, UP looked well on their way to the final. Both batsmen kept striking the ball nicely. While Shukla was cautious, Parminder was in his usual aggressive touch. They added 272 runs for the fourth-wicket.
However, an inspired spell of bowling from Balaji broke the stand when he had Parminder caught at square leg for an impressive 138 and got TN right back in the game.
Balaji then removed Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (11), while R Ashwin had Piyush Chawla caught in the deep for 1. Once Praveen Kumar failed to read the flight of an Ashwin delivery, UP looked in serious trouble,
With almost all the recognised batsmen back in the pavilion, TN skipper Dinesh Karthik opted for the new ball and brought on Balaji.
With UP at 421/8, TN were favourites to face Mumbai in the summit clash, however, Shukla held his nerve. He farmed the strike protecting Praveen Gupta (13*) to move UP ever closer to the 446-run mark. Gupta too got in on the act, smashing two boundaries off Balaji.
The target was achieved in the ninth mandatory over of the day when Shukla smashed Balaji for a boundary to spark raucous celebrations in the UP camp.