Ranji: Kaul’s four-wicket haul puts Punjab in command

Siddarth Kaul bowled long spells and picked up at least one wicket in each session. On a wicket with an even cover of grass and offering good carry, the medium-pacer Siddarth Kaul bowled his heart out.

Siddarth Kaul bowled his heart out to put Punjab in control. (File photo)   -  PTI

Those in charge of things at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium pride themselves on what a certain Sachin Tendulkar said about the pitch here many years ago. “He called it the most sporting wicket he had seen,” an official gushed. “He also suggested that the BCCI must hold its conditioning camp here before every overseas assignment,” added another. These observations still seem valid.

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On a wicket with an even cover of grass and offering good carry, medium-pacer Siddarth Kaul (four for 81) bowled his heart out to put Punjab in a commanding position on the first day of its Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Assam on Wednesday. At stumps, Assam was 223 for eight with top-scorer J. Syed Mohammad on 50 and Arup Das on nought.

It’s not that the wicket didn’t aid run-scoring. Those who were prepared to bide their time were rewarded with the ball coming on to the bat.

Openers Pallav Kumar Das (46) and Rahul Hazarika (12) did just that by negating the threat posed by Kaul, Barinder Singh Sran (two for 67) and Deepak Bansal (one for 36) in the first hour.

But once Bansal had Hazarika caught by skipper Harbhajan Singh in the 18th over, there was no looking back. Harbhajan, who won the toss, introduced himself as late as the 29th over, but made up for that delay by having Das caught at short leg immediately.

That said it was Kaul who impressed the most. Ticking off the wickets column by dismissing Gokul Sharma with a ball that shaped away, he bowled long spells and picked up at least one wicket in each session.

Like Das, Amit Verma (42) and Mohammad also played some good-looking drives. Batting at No. 7, Mohammad used his feet well against the spinners besides shepherding the lower order.

Assam went to lunch at 91 for three, and the period between the long break and tea cost them three wickets, including that of K. B. Arun Karthik (5), the team’s star this season. Sran got one to jag back into the right-hander to let it uproot the stumps.

At tea, Assam was 159 for five in 61 overs. Things went from bad to worse for Assam after Punjab took the second new ball. Kaul returned to dismiss Amit Sinha, who paid the price for fishing outside the off-stump. Sran got his second when Dhiraj Goswami committed a similar error.

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