Ranji Trophy: Punjab dominates on day one

Punjab looked to have laboriously made its way to a strong position on the opening day of the round nine of the Ranji Trophy match.

Mandeep Singh Ranji Trophy

Punjab's Mandeep Singh scored 78 against Mumbai on Wednesday.   -  PTI

Mumbai had its say, after Punjab looked to have laboriously made its way to a strong position, on the opening day of the round nine of the Ranji Trophy match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Wednesday. Punjab was 216 for 4 at stumps.

>Scorecard

A twin-strike in the same over by occasional offspinner Suryakumar Yadav dealt a serious double blow for Punjab as it lost Mandeep Singh (78) and Uday Kaul (86) after they had done all the work to deserve a century each. The duo had put on 138 for the third-wicket, after the incisive bowling by medium pacer Shardul Thakur had reduced Punjab to 63 for two.

With the bowlers managing to extract a lot of life out of the pitch, and bowling with considerable accuracy in the corridor outside the off stump, Punjab was cautious for the better part of the day.

Only around tea, Punjab relaxed a bit as Mandeep Singh swung to long on for two sixes, before holing out to the same area, a catch well taken in the shadow by opening bowler Tushar Deshpande.

Mandeep had hit 10 fours as well in his entertaining knock that spanned 132 balls. In contrast, Uday Kaul was watchful in his 229-ball knock that had eight hits to the boundary.

The scoring was so slow in the initial stages of the day that Mandeep actually signalled the teammates on the bench to cheer for the 100 on the score board.

With Mumbai having already ensured its berth in the knockout phase, with Gujarat (25) and Tamil Nadu (23) better placed to make the quarterfinals from the group, especially after Gujarat and Bengal had been awarded one point each for the abandoned match in Delhi, it will be a very difficult task for Punjab (18) to nose into the knockout.

Both Madhya Pradesh (19) and Bengal (18) playing each other, and in the same status as Punjab, will also try to sneak through, reducing the chances further.

In such a scenario, beating a champion side like Mumbai, which looked very purposeful, will be a tough ask for Punjab. Yet, with three days to go, a lot may happen to make it interesting, in an otherwise serene atmosphere of a world class ground, in which the occasional train alone adds to the noise of the players cheering their bowlers.