RANJI TROPHY QUARTERS
RAFIQ A WANI
SRINAGAR: It was turn of Parvez Rasool, the off-spinner, to shine on the pulsating third day of Jammu and Kashmir’s see-saw Ranji Trophy quarter-final game against Punjab at Moti Baug, Vadodra, taking a five-fer even as match is poised for a thrilling finish with J&K still requiring 247 runs with eight wickets in the shed. The day witnessed a series of swings with Punjab recovering from a precarious situation when J&K pacers had them tottering at 50 for 5 before Mandeep Singh led revival meant they set a target of 324 for J&K to win.
While Parvez, the J&K skipper, followed his terrific ton on the second third with an impressive 5 for 58 that limited the damage from Mandeep and the lower order, the Punjab middle order batsman stroked a classy ton-a 151-ball 101, making sure his side go into the fourth day as firm favorites.
J&K responded to the big target with purpose, with opener Adil Reshi leading the charge with a breezy 34 loaded with half a dozen fours but failed to kick on to make a bigger score as his side lost both openers before they could cross 60. Bandeep Singh, who was promoted up the order after regular opener Obaid Haroon couldn’t take the field due illness, was the first one to go for 4 and Adil gifting his wicket away to VRV Singh. Ian Dev Singh (17*) and Hardeep Singh (20*) survived some hostility from Punjab pace battery to end the day at 77 for 2 and setting the scene for a cracking fourth-possibly last-day’s play.
The third day had an eventful start with J&K pacers unrelenting with their pace, direction and seam movement and yielded wickets in cluster to dent Punjab-starting the day at 15/2- upfront.
Medium pacer Ram Dayal found an outside edge of Inder Singh to have him caught behind with just three runs added to the overnight total. And, night watchman Sandeep Sharma was castled by emerging quickie Umar Nazir before Mudasir Gujree trapped Gitansh Khera to leave Punjab reeling at 50 for 5.
In came Mandeep to join out of sorts Yuvraj Singh, and the pair braved initial hiccups to get Punjab going.
Yuvraj, desperate to make a substantial score to catch Indian selectors’ attention, looked determined to thwart J&K pace attack and Mandeep gained assurance every minute he spent on the crease. Yuvraj played some typical Yuvraj strokes and looked all set for a big one, before he had a brain fart. He slammed a Parvez delivery for a leg side six and wanted to repeat the dose only to find Samiullah Beigh at mid on taking a catch, departing for a good looking 56-ball 40 to bring an end to a promising stand of 62 for the sixth wicket.
Either side of the lunch break, that had to be rescheduled to give J&K players time to offer Friday prayers, Punjab went for a counter attack, and J&K bowlers wilted under the assault.
Gurkeerat Singh, coming at number 8, was prepared to make a move on, prepared to take game to the opposition as runs-mostly in boundaries-came thick and fast for Punjab to wrestle back the initiative. J&K looked out of depth with fumbles in the field becoming a norm and bowlers losing their line and length to be scored off easily.
The pair put on, in what could in the end turn out to be a match winning one, 113 with Gurkeerat the major scorer, contributing 66 off just 77, laced with nine fours and a six.
It was Parvez who ended the stand trapping Gurkeerat leg before the wicket and followed it with a wicket of Harbhajan Singh next ball to have scoreboard reading 225 for 8.
Mandeep wasn’t done though as he continued to accumulate runs and was helped by a Manpreet Singh Gony run a ball 31, powered by four fours and a six as the duo added 62 for the ninth wicket. Parvez was again the man for his side removing Gony but that didn’t stop Mandeep to complete his seventh first class century before the J&K off-spinner had him bowled for his sixth five wicket haul, ending the Punjab innings at 296.
With a daunting total to chase, J&K looked determined to scale down the target with batsmen showing stomach for fight and didn’t let go scoring opportunities waste in the 20 overs they faced. Can they translate determination and will into historic chase, day four will an answer. J&K fans would want Saturday to be a super one and Punjab would believe that they have a bowling attack with world class Harbhajan in ranks to defend the total and deny their opponents a historic landmark.
BRIEF SCORES: Jammu & Kashmir 277 and 77 for 2 (Reshi 34) need 247 runs to beat Punjab 304 and 296 (Mandeep 101, Gurkeerat 66, Parvez 5-58)