Punjab seamer Baltej Singh picked up seven wickets on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy group-stage match against Gujarat in Valsad on Wednesday.
Baltej’s brilliant spell helped Punjab wrap up the home side for a paltry 97 in reply to its first-innings total of 286. The lanky seamer struck in the first over of the innings when he removed Gujarat opener Kathan Patel for a six-ball duck. Baltej then dismissed Priyesh Patel (12) before cleaning up Gujarat’s in-form skipper Priyank Panchal for seven.
The 32-year-old Baltej was enforced continuously from one end by Punjab skipper Mandeep Singh. Baltej then snapped up the remaining middle-order batters. M A Hingrajia (11), Umang Kumar (1), Karan Patel (2) and Het Patel (26) fell in succession as Baltej registered his maiden First Class seven-wicket haul.
He ended up with figures of 16-8-28-7 - the eighth-best ever by a Punjab bowler in First Class cricket.
Baltej had an ordinary start to the red-ball season with seven wickets from the previous three rounds.
While Punjab was beaten by Madhya Pradesh in the quarterfinal of the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy season last year, Baltej emerged as one of the leading seamers of the tournament with 18 wickets from just four matches. Baltej was also named in the standbys of the North Zone Duleep Trophy squad in September 2022.
Baltej made his First Class debut for Punjab in 2011 and has picked up 69 wickets from 39 innings.
In the IPL 2022 mega-auction last year, Baltej was bought by his home franchise Punjab Kings for Rs 20 lakh. Yet to make his IPL debut, Baltej was later retained by the franchise on the IPL 2023 retention deadline day in November 2022.
Punjab (7 points) is currently fourth in the Elite Group D standings this season while Gujarat sits in second place with 14 points.