Ranji Trophy: Punjab seals outright win over Kerala

Punjab now finds itself in with a chance to qualify for the knock-out stage after a 10-wicket win inside three days over Kerala.

Openers Jiwanjot Singh (48* off 95) and Shubhman Gill (69* off 73) saw Punjab through in chase of Kerala's 128-run target.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Three days ago, Punjab was down and nearly out, but now finds itself in with a chance after a 10-wicket win inside three days over Kerala at the PCA Stadium here on Tuesday.

The win has helped Punjab climb the ladder in the Ranji Trophy’s Elite Group A and B with 20 points, the same as Kerala.

With just the last round of matches remaining, it would be interesting to see how the battles for a place in the knock-stage shape up next week. The teams that finish among top five – both the groups combined – go through.

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After resuming at 127 for three, Kerala needed to see off the morning session in order to set a competitive target for Punjab. The morning session here could become really challenging for the batsmen.

Wickets fell on Tuesday morning as Kerala lost five of them before lunch arrived.

The third day started brightly for the visiting side though, with Mohammed Azharuddeen greeting Siddharth Kaul with two sweetly struck boundaries on either side of the wicket. But, in the very next over, Manpreet Gony cleaned up captain Sachin Baby with a ball that swung sharply in.

The first innings' top-scorer Vishnu Vinod, however, gave some support to Azharuddeen and added 55 for the fifth wicket before he fell lbw to leg-spinner Mayank Markande, who finished with four for 56. The dismissal opened the floodgates, as Kerala lost its last six wickets for 33 runs.

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Azharudeen, though, looked unperturbed as he reached to his 112 (168b, 283min, 12x4, 2x6) before giving a catch to Anmolpreet Singh at second slip off Baltej Singh.

Punjab needed 128 runs to win and had a lucky reprieve at the start of its chase when opener Jiwanjot Singh survived after being castled by Sandeep Warrier off a over-stepped delivery. Then he and Shubman Gill (69 not out, 73b, 127min, 11x4), then had a stroll in the park, taking Punjab home an hour before the scheduled close of play.

At Mohali: Kerala 121 & 223 in 73.1 overs (Mohammed Azharuddeen 112, Mayank Markande four for 56) lost to Punjab 217 & 131 for no loss in 27.4 overs (Jiwanjot Singh 48 n.o., Shubman Gill 69 n.o.). Points: Punjab 7 (20), Kerala 0 (20).

“The application showed by our batsmen made the difference,” Punjab coach Rajdeed Kalsi.

“The first-innings collapses has cost us dearly this season,” Kerala coach Dav Whatmore.