Ranji Trophy: Punjab tightens noose around Mumbai

Inspired by a first innings lead of 283, Punjab struck two blows to reduce Mumbai to 94 for two at the end of the third day, after asking the champion to follow on.

Returning from the Test squad, Shardul Thakur scored 70 off 80, which included 10 fours and two sixes.   -  Special arrangement

The race may be effectively over for the qualification berths for the knockout stage from Group 'A', but Punjab stayed enthusiastic in its bid to beat defending champion Mumbai in the last league match of the Ranji Trophy league encounter at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Friday.

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Manpreet Gony played his part as a medium pacer efficiently with a lively spell and took four wickets to help Punjab dismiss Mumbai for 185 in the first innings.

Inspired by a first innings lead of 283, Punjab struck two blows to reduce Mumbai to 94 for two at the end of the third day, after asking the champion to follow on.

Returning from the Test squad in Mumbai, it was Shardul Thakur who provided the thrust to the Mumbai batting with a brisk 70 off 80 balls, an innings of substance that was studded with 10 fours and two sixes. In trying to go for another big hit, Shardul mishit a drive to long on.

It was left to Sufiyan Shaikh to add some substance to the Mumbai total, and he was the last man out, after making 67 in his 149-ball vigil. Shubham Ranjane had been injured earlier and thus could not come out to bat.

Shardul and Sufiyan had combined for a 101-run partnership for the sixth-wicket, after Mumbai had been reduced to 37 for five, thanks to some lively bowling in the morning.

Mumbai had already ensured its qualification for the quarterfinals by topping the table with 29 points. The next two spots from the group may have already been settled between Gujarat (25) and Tamil Nadu (23) with the latter taking the first innings lead and looking good for a strong finish. The two teams may eventually take the qualification spots for the knockout with 26 points each, an unbeatable lead for the rest like Punjab (18) which even with an outright victory can only reach 24.

With still 189 run in deficit, it will be interesting to see how well Mumbai handles the Punjab bowling on the last day, with the latter thirsting to provide a memorable end to the season.