Uttar Pradesh fought back through captain Mohammed Kaif and their pace bowlers by putting Saurashtra on the back foot and left them 72 runs behind with only two wickets in hand on the opening day of their Elite Group semi-final on Saturday.
Eighteen wickets fell on the day as Saurashtra took early initiative in the first session only to let it slip in the final one. The pitch assisted seamers early on as UP lost seven wickets after Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Shah had won the toss. But after tea, Saurashtra lost eight wickets.
It was Sandeep Maniar first who made excellent use of the conditions to claim six wickets as Saurashtra bundled out the 2005-06 champions for 188 in 51.5 overs. There was no terror in the pitch and it was a combination of steady bowling and injudicious batting that led to the flurry of wickets.
Maniar started by removing opener Rohit Prakash with his very first ball. He also got rid of Suresh Raina, who seemed to have played himself in before going for a loose shot. Kaif joined makeshift opener Amir Khan at this juncture but the latter perished soon to leave the team at a disastrous 15 for three in the ninth over.
Ravikant Shukla joined his skipper and played a cameo as the two added 54 runs for the fourth wicket. But he perished shouldering arms to a delivery which came back sharply. Promoted in the order, Piyush Chawla fell next ball.
Rahal Elahi and Praveen Kumar both departed soon but Kaif found an able ally in medium-pacer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and added a valuable 49 runs for the eighth wicket. Kaif made most of two 'lives' and slammed 13 boundaries in his 122-ball knock.
Saurashtra were in for a shock after dismissing UP, losing three wickets in the first six overs. Praveen and Sudeep Tyagi pitched it up, allowing the ball to swing, and reaped the rewards. From five for three, the surprise semi-finalists recovered slightly through skipper Jaydev Shah's 72-ball 57.