Irani Cup: Gujarat still in the driver's seat

Contrasting fifties from Gujarat’s Priyank Panchal and Chirag Gandhi ensured that Rest of India will have to put on the highest total of the match while batting in the fourth innings if it is to retain the Irani Cup.

PTI

Shahbaz Nadeem... four wickets for 53 runs.   -  PTI

Seasoned campaigner Pankaj Singh bowled his heart out for little reward. Mohammed Siraj was finally rewarded for sticking to a fuller line, with the slip cordon holding on to catches. And left-arm bowler Shahbaz Nadeem continued his dream run this season with some consistent bowling. Still, contrasting fifties from Gujarat’s Priyank Panchal and Chirag Gandhi ensured that Rest of India will have to put on the highest total of the match while batting in the fourth innings if it is to retain the Irani Cup.

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At the end of the third day’s play at the Brabourne Stadium, Gujarat, after earning a healthy 132-run lead in the first innings, was placed at 227 for eight. If Gandhi can repeat the first innings heroics and help Gujarat set a 400-plus target, then the RoI batsmen will be put under tremendous pressure to achieve it.

A disciplined RoI bowling — aided by a couple of dubious decision by umpire Virender Sharma — continued to strike at regular intervals ever since the RoI first innings wounded up 14 minutes into Sunday’s play. Still, Panchal’s stout innings and Gandhi’s courageous knock helped Gujarat continue to retain a stronghold on the game.

Panchal, having piled on 1300-plus runs at the top of the order during Gujarat’s maiden Ranji triumph, saw through Pankaj’s early burst which saw the lanky bowler getting rid of Samit Gohel cheaply for the second time in three days. With Pankaj and Siraj running at full steam, Panchal preferred to play the patient game, opening up his shoulders only after he had crossed the fifty.

When Panchal and skipper Parthiv Patel were at the crease, RoI was in danger of hunting down a huge target. However, thanks to umpire Sharma’s error of judgment, Patel had to return after being adjudged caught at forward short-leg when the bat appeared to be nowhere close to the ball, and RoI had a sniff.

> Read: Irani Cup underlines issues with umpiring standards

And the RoI bowlers did put Gujarat under pressure, picking three wickets for 20 runs, including Patel’s, to put Gujarat in a slight spot of bother. However, Gandhi, the only century-maker of the match so far, continued his silken touch despite three stitches to his finger. He was injured while taking catches before the start of play.

With Nadeem striking at regular intervals, thanks to his clever variation in pace and length, Gandhi had to ensure he kept the scoreboard ticking. He ensured that he remained unbeaten at stumps after taking the lead past 350.