J&K bowlers shine but succumb to late order assault

Rafiq A Wani
SRINAGAR: For Jammu and Kashmir, it was a perfect setting: win the toss and insert opposition in having gone with a four-pronged pace attack on a lively Moti Baug deck. Pacers responded to the decision and bowling friendly conditions effectively to have strong Punjab lineup on the ropes at 146 for 7 inside 45 overs, and it looked they could steamroll their opponents under 200, but it wasn’t to be. Punjab showed their fighting mettle through their skipper Harbhajan Singh and Sandeep Sharma, the batsmen, to find themselves occupying pole position at the end of day one.
Tottering after losing seven top order batsmen cheaply, Harbhajan and Sandeep Sharma combined together to script late order resistance adding 105 for the eight wicket with Punjab skipper slamming a belligerent 92 off 79, powered with eight fours and half a dozen sixes and the latter essaying a solid 51 to boost their side to a very healthy first innings score of 304.
Sharma then return with the ball to snare J&K opener Obaid Haroon early in the piece and it could have far worse had right arm pacer Manpreet Singh Gony not overstepped when he had number three Bandeep Singh caught behind the wickets. J&K ended the day at 11 for 1 with Bandeep and Adil Reshi at the crease, awaiting a stern test on day-two morning from Punjab pace battery and Harbhajan, the spinner.
The day started the way; J&K would have wanted to go. Winning the toss and letting their in-form pacers using the seamer assisting surface. And, things seems to have going into plan with young pacer Umar Nazir (who replaced leggie Wasim Raza in the playing XI) snaring Manan Vohra for 13 in the 12th over before it was Ram Dayal who shone with the ball, getting it bounce and bend either way.
He accounted for prolific run scorer this season Jiwanjot Singh for a 43-ball 22 before getting the fish. Out of sorts and keen to make a comeback in Indian team, Yuvraj Singh succumbed to the seaming conditions as Dayal found the edge to have the dashing left hander caught in the second slips for a laborious 10. And, four overs later Dayal struck again and it was Mandeep Singh this time around as Punjab were reeling at 71 for 4.
There was a fightback of sorts Ravi Inder Singh and Gurkeerat Singh with the pair adding breezy 50 for the fifth wicket before Nazir bowled a peach of a delivery to have the latter’s off-stump shattered. Gurkeerat looked in a good touch hitting eight fours in his 38-ball 41 and his departure meant another couple of wickets for J&K.
Seasoned pacer Samiullah Beigh, who bowled new ball with no luck, removed Inder Singh for an obdurate 36 and followed with a wicket of wicketkeeper Gitansh Khera to rattle Punjab.
But, it was all J&K bowlers could enjoy with Harbhajan taking centrestage. He felt attack was the best medium to get his side back in ascendancy slamming boundaries at will. He slogged effectively, pulled ferociously and hit sixes quite easily.
The Punjab skipper took liking to his opposite number Parvez Rasool, hitting his 11th over for four sixes and looted half a dozen maximums in a space of eight balls from J&K offie even as Sandeep was contend on playing a supporting act to Harbhajan’s fireworks.
The pair saw their side well and truly on the top adding 105 with Harbhajan doing the bulk of scoring. Parvez, though, did dismiss Harbhajan, 8 short of a century, but not before leading his side out of trouble.
At 251 for 8, Sandeep started to use long handle 22 and 31 for the ninth and last wickets respectively to help his side get past that psychological 300-run mark before Nazir cleaned up the tail to end with the figures of 4 for 66 in just his 3rd first class game.
Dayal had returns of 3 for 59 from his 21 and Beigh got a brace bowling 15.
As of now, J&K look a team that need to put in hard yards and team management would want their batsmen to put a brave effort in what would be a tough examination of their skill and patience on day two.

BRIEF SCORE: J&K 11/1 trail Punjab 304 (Harbhajan Singh 92, Sandeep Sharma 51, Umar Nazeer 4/66) by 293 runs.