The moment Bengal were waiting for came exactly an hour into the second session on the final day's play of their Elite Group B match against Rajasthan when Sourav Sarkar bowled out Aslam Khan. It signalled an innings and 62-run win for the hosts, which put them in the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy for the second straight year, as group champions.
Last year's beaten finalists will now have to overcome Karnataka to make it to the title round. The five-day match against the team sans Robin Uthappa, and maybe Anil Kumble too, starts at Eden Gardens on January 23.
Facing the Herculean task of surviving a minimum of 90 overs on Saturday with six wickets in hand, Rajasthan's decline started early. Offie Sourasish Lahiri started the rot, scalping Rohit Jahlani off his very first ball.
Opening bowler Shailendra Gehlot was Lahiri's second victim. It could have put pressure on Nikhil Doru, who started the day on 60 looking for a century but he found a sensible ally in debutant Sumit Khatri. The right-hander displayed a tight technique and also the realisation that discretion is better than valour on way to his sixth first-class ton.
Khatri was run out by a direct throw from Abhishek Jhunjhunwala to end a 73-run seventh-wicket stand. Jadeja came to bat at No.9 and remained unbeaten but that was not enough to prevent Bengal from bagging a bonus point from their last group match.
Rajasthan 193 and 328 (NS Doru 103, R Bishnoi 39, R Jhalani 62, S Khatri 32; S Sarkar 3 for 52, S Lahiri 2 for 100, LR Shukla 2 for 9) lost to Bengal 1st inni 583 for 6 decl by an inni & 62 runs.
Mumbai set up clash with Baroda
A.R. Hemant, Nasik
Maharashtra failed to come good in their second innings as well, losing by an innings and 154 runs to Mumbai on the final day of the Ranji Trophy Super League Group 'B' match at the Golf Club Ground on Saturday.
Mumbai, with this victory, have now moved into the semi-finals where they will meet Baroda on January 23. Nilesh Kulkarni wrecked Maharashtra in the second innings, picking up 6 for 43. Maharashtra started Day Four trailing by 177 runs and placed hopelessly at 148 for 6.
They lost the remaining four wickets for 23 runs in just 35 minutes. Kulkarni struck with the first ball of the day when Satyajit Satbhai gently lobbed the first ball of the day back to the bowler. And Kulkarni was on a hat-trick as the spinner had also dismissed Mansingh Nigade off his last ball on Day Three.
Kulkarni, combining with Swapnil Hazare who took one wicket, ensured victory was swift. The two wiped off the Maharashtra tail even as their captain, Sairaj Bahutule, stood at one end, looking helplessly. The victory follows a remarkable turnaround for Mumbai as they didn't have a point from their first three games, but with commendable performances from youngsters, they won their next three games with bonus points.
Mumbai 1st innings 515 for 8 decl beat Maharashtra 190 and 171 (YV Takawale 52, S Sriram 52; S Hazare 2 for 39, A Agarkar 2 for 9, N Kulkarni 6 for 43) by an innings and 154 runs.
Saurashtra manage a draw
G. Krishnan, Rajkot
All the attention that the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground received on the first three days of the Karnataka-Saurashtra Ranji Trophy Super League Group 'A' was missing on Saturday.
Crowd gathered largely to catch a glimpse of Indian captain Rahul Dravid, who left the ground on Saturday afternoon as the match was progressing towards a dull draw. And the maximum attention was on Friday when India coach Greg Chappell and all the national selectors assembled. Dravid, having got some good knock in the first knock making 56, did not bat in the second innings.
The players went through their motions as Karnataka did not enforce a follow-on after Saurashtra lasted only one over in the morning before all their wickets were down for 354, two runs more than their overnight 352 for eight. Rakesh Dhruve did not bat as he suffered a fracture on Day One. Ahead by 216 and with no opportunity of bowling out the home side again in one full day, Karnataka chose to bat again and finished at 249 for three in their second innings.
Karnataka 570 and 249 for 3 (B Rowland 100 n.o. C Raghu 66, V Naidu 44) drew with Saurashtra 1st innings 354 (K Vaghela 101, S Jogiyani 80, C Pujara 62; R Vinay Kumar 2 for 100, B Akhil 2 for 62 R Bhatkal 3 for 53).